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Georgia's Conservative Path to a Solar Power Boom

Georgia politics haven't usually been friendly to renewable energy. But some unlikely alliances, and a healthy dose of economics, can go a long way.
June 30, 2018, 1pm PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Matt Montagne

Only a few years ago, the state of Georgia "didn't have much solar power at all," James Bruggers writes. But last year, it ranked as one of the nation's top solar power states, producing enough energy to power 175,000 homes. Bruggers traces the history of that shift, and how it has bucked expectations for energy politics in a conservative state. 

One of the leading figures is Lauren "Bubba" McDonald, Jr., chairman of Georgia's Public Service Commission. An "early Trump supporter," McDonald "has been pushing Georgia Power, the state's largest utility, to invest in clean energy by ensuring that solar is included in the utility's long-term power plans, updated every three years."

The PSC may shift further toward solar later this year, as "solar advocates expect a voter backlash this fall against the all-Republican, elected commission over a costly nuclear power plant expansion." That project, an expansion to the Vogtle nuclear plant, has been costing the typical Georgia Power customer an extra $100 a year since 2011, Bruggers writes. 

As the costs of solar continue to fall in the sunny state, renewable energy has spurred unlikely alignments between groups like the Sierra Club and the Tea Party. "It's all about the message," said Debbie Dooley, a Tea Party activist who leads the so-called Green Tea Coalition. "Free market, competition, choice, expanding the energy portfolio and energy mix. I don't want excessive regulations."

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Published on Thursday, June 14, 2018 in Inside Climate News
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