Georgia Public Service Commission approves Georgia Power solar program

From the Atlanta Business Chronicle:

The Georgia Public Service Commission approved a plan by Georgia Power Co.Tuesday to acquire an additional 210 megawatts of solar generating capacity, tripling its investment in solar energy.

But a sharply divided PSC also gave a potential competitor to Georgia Power its blessing to appeal to the General Assembly to amend a 39-year-old law that is preventing other utilities from entering the solar production business in Georgia.

Georgia Power, a unit of Southern Co., currently has 61.5 megawatts of solar energy under contract, enough to power about 7,600 hours.

That first foray into solar power two years ago was “a baby step” for the company and the PSC, Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald said Tuesday.

“This is a much bigger step the company is coming forward with,” he said. “It recognizes the value of solar generation and the effect it can have for consumers of our state.”

While the PSC supported Georgia Power’s plan unanimously, a subsequent motion by McDonald encouraging other solar utilities interested in serving Georgia to pursue their plans with the legislature passed by the narrow margin of 3-2.

Georgia Solar Utilities Inc., a company launched in Macon, Ga., earlier this year, filed an application with the PSC in September for authority to generate solar energy in Georgia on a utility scale.

But the commission’s staff recommended that the PSC dismiss the application, citing a 1973 state law that gives Georgia Power exclusive rights to serve its existing customers.

Rather than dismiss the proposal outright, however, the commission in essence urged Georgia Solar Utilities to appeal to the General Assembly to amend that law and open up the solar business to competition.

Commissioner Doug Everett, who supported the motion, argued that Georgia will need all the additional solar capacity it can get if the Obama administration regulates coal out of existence as a source of energy and curtails the new “fracking” technology that has made natural gas supplies more readily available.

“Where are we going to get the [power] generation to replace the coal industry?” Everett asked. “We’ve got to look at everything.”

But Commissioner Stan Wise said the PSC has no business taking sides on an issue likely to go before Georgia lawmakers.

“If they’re successful across the street, so be it,” he said, referring to the location of the state Capitol. “[But] for us to involve ourselves in what goes on across the street is inappropriate.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for November 13, 2012

This beautiful, blue-eyed, white husky-mix is described as sweet and is available from the Murray County Animal Shelter in Chatsworth. Without a rescue or adoption, he will be euthanized on Friday in the pre-dawn hours.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

The United States Supreme Court will hear a challenge to parts of the Voting Rights Act that affect states that had a history of vote discrimination when the act was passed; this includes Georgia.

The challenge to Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act was launched two years ago, and the court added it to its docket just days after an energized minority electorate played a critical role in the reelection of President Obama, the nation’s first African American president.

The justices said they would decide whether Congress exceeded its authority in 2006 when it reauthorized a requirement that states and localities with a history of discrimination, most of them in the South, receive federal approval before making any changes to their voting laws.

Three years ago, the court expressed concern about subjecting some states to stricter standards than others using a formula developed decades ago. But the justices sidestepped the constitutional question and found a narrow way to decide that case.

Georgia State House Republicans re-elected their leadership team yesterday, with Speaker David Ralston, Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, Majority Leader Larry O’Neal, Majority Whip Ed Lindsey, Vice Chair Matt Ramsey, and Secretary Allen Peake unopposed and Caucus Chair Donna Sheldon beating back an intramural challenge from Rep. Delvis Dutton.

The Democratic Caucus reelected everyone but Rep. Brian Thomas, who was beaten by Rep. Virgil Fludd.

Later this week, Georgia Senate Republicans will gather at Little Ocmulgee State Park for a group hug caucus meeting. Pro-tip to anyone attending: do not accept any offers of an “after dark swamp tour.” (more…)