Even though the state of Georgia is known for its delicious peaches, the policies and incentives surrounding solar power in the state are not as ideal for homeowners as they were in 2008. Several incidents occurred along the way that has led to the current solar energy policies in Georgia.
The state legislature passed a very strong tax credit for solar power, but that tax credit has since died. Then in 2015, the legislators passed an act known as the Solar Power Free-Market Financing Act of 2015. This act opened the state up to power-purchase agreements and solar leasing.
It was the beginning of affordable solar power to residential customers across the state. However, as of this current writing, there are no companies in Georgia that are selling solar PPAs.
Georgia is one of the few states in the country that does not have many of the solar policies in place that are in other states across the country. This includes a strong RPS (Renewable Portfolio Standard), strong net metering, interconnection laws and tax exemptions for renewable energy.
All of these policies have been put in place in other states in an effort to protect consumers.
In addition, the state’s decision to end solar installation tax credits has resulted in many homeowners deciding to forgo installing solar panels in Georgia especially since they are not receiving any statewide incentives to do so.
What Is An RPS?
A Renewable Portfolio Standard, or a RPS, is a law that allows the state legislature to mandate a certain percentage of energy generation is produced from renewable sources by a specific date.
The utilities that do business in that state have to meet the requirements of renewable energy generation, or they have to purchase it from their customers. If these companies do not meet these standards, they will be subject to fees and penalties. This means that utilities that are in states that have a strong RPS benefit from these requirements because it is a more affordable option than paying penalties and fees.
As mentioned above, Georgia is one of the few states in the nation that has not yet passed a RPS. Even though the state may offer residential customers an occasional incentive based on utility-specific performance or a tax credit, the state does not have a cohesive policy in place that can encourages renewable energy.
Does Georgia Have A Solar Carve-Out?
States that have an addendum for solar carve-outs within their RPS require that utilities generate some of their power from the sun. Failure to do so result in penalties for non-compliance.
Once again, Georgia does not have a RPS, and therefore, does not have a solar carve-out.
Interconnection policies determine the way solar power system owners can ‘plug in’ and send solar energy to utility companies via the electrical grid. The simpler, more updated and more straightforward the interconnection rules are, the better the score.
The states with the best interconnection policies allow for any system capacity to offer a process that is less complex for smaller systems. These policies also ban utilities from mandating unnecessary disconnect switches, and have clear, concise resolution rules in place for disputes.
Georgia currently does not have any regulations in place that prevent utilities from mandating separate liability insurance or external disconnect switches. Both can cost residential customers more money.
The interconnection and net metering laws that are in place do not contain any protections or safe harbor policies that can protect customers in the event they incur unexpected bills and fees from their utility companies.
In addition to net metering and high electricity bills, the only other factor that has been one of the most important for households considering solar power is solar incentives.
Previously, the state did not have great solar panel laws in place, but offered excellent incentives that helped to reduce the up-front investment that is required when transitioning to solar energy. In fact, some of these incentives were so large, many homeowners were able to save a lot of money without needing a RPS or net metering.
These days, the largest incentive that most residential customers in Georgia will receive is the Federal Solar Tax Credit. This tax credit allows homeowners to earn 30% of the total cost of their solar panel system back in 12 months.
Solar Tax Credits
So, how do these tax credits work? Tax credits offered by the state are not really considered to be free money. However, they are considered credits and are not considered deductions.
Georgia no longer offers state tax credits for solar panels, although the state once had excellent solar tax credits for those who wanted to switch to solar power.
The program offered a tax credit that equaled up to 35% of the installation cost of the system, with a maximum credit of $10,500. The program did eventually run out of funding, and the only tax credits Georgia homeowners can receive now is the Federal Solar Tax Credit.
Solar Power Rebates
The rebates for solar power are very similar to the rebates one would get when they purchase an appliance. They are generally distributed from utility companies that are trying to avoid paying fees due to not producing enough renewable energy per the RPS.
It is usually less expensive for utility companies to help residential customers move to solar than paying fines and penalties. Some of the rebates can help reduce the upfront costs of switching to solar. Other rebates can be distributed in a lump sum after installation.
Georgia’s solar panel laws are lacking in several areas such as a strong RPS and state tax credits. However, as legislation continues to be drafted and amended, the state will be able to take its rightful position as being one of the states with the best solar energy and solar panel laws.