City Hall calls regulators’ rooftop solar decision ‘disappointing’

Georgia Public Service Commission declined to expand a popular rooftop solar pilot program this week
Mayor Andre Dickens speaks during a press conference at Atlanta City Hall on Thursday, February 3, 2022. (Hyosub Shin /



Mayor Andre Dickens speaks during a press conference at Atlanta City Hall on Thursday, February 3, 2022. (Hyosub Shin /

Days after the Georgia Public Service Commission’s (PSC) vote to allow Georgia Power to collect $1.8 billion from its customers over the next three years, the city of Atlanta is praising some aspects of the plan – but calls regulators’ decision not to grow a popular rooftop solar program “disappointing.”

The plan, approved by a 4-1 vote Tuesday, means that starting Jan. 1, the average Georgia Power customer will pay roughly $4 a month more for electricity. Larger, additional rate hikes of 4.5% will take effect in 2024 and 2025, with the exact dollar impact of those increases still to be determined.

But in the same vote, the commission declined to allow a solar “net metering” pilot program to enroll new customers, a move that clean energy advocates had pushed hard for and have said is key to growing rooftop solar in Georgia.

In a statement Thursday, Atlanta’s newly minted chief sustainability officer Chandra Farley said the commission’s decision could hamper the city’s own ambitions to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and help mitigate climate change.

“Meeting our City’s clean energy goals requires all of us to work together to build climate resilient infrastructure and incentivize clean energy development,” Farley said. “While we are pleased that the final agreement reflects several of our priorities, we remain concerned that the agreement does not go far enough to establish clean energy as the prevailing source of electricity in Georgia.”

A PSC spokesman said the commissioners could not respond to the city’s comments, citing rules that prohibit commissioners from speaking about regulatory decisions for 10 days after a vote.

On sunny days, homes with solar panels often don’t use all of the electricity they generate and end up sending extra electrons back to the grid. Net metering customers are credited at a higher rate for the excess electricity compared to non-participants, which can lead to dramatically lower power bills. But the pilot program created by the PSC in 2019 was capped at 5,000 participants and has been full since the summer of 2021.

Though Georgia Power is expanding its own solar capacity, it has been staunchly opposed to offering the net metering billing plan to more customers. The company has said net metering customers benefit from its grid, without paying enough to maintain it.

On Tuesday, the PSC decided it would not expand the pilot, instead opting to increase the compensation that rooftop solar customers will receive from Georgia Power for each kilowatt hour of excess energy by 4 cents.

This year, for the first time, the city of Atlanta formally participated in hearings over Georgia Power’s electricity generation plans and rates. They joined a coalition of other cities — including Savannah, Decatur and Athens-Clarke County — to provide comment and expert testimony in support of their energy priorities, which differed in some key areas from Georgia Power’s.

Ahead of the vote, Mayor Andre Dickens wrote a letter to the PSC’s five elected members, calling on the commission to adopt several of the coalition’s green energy recommendations, including removing the net metering cap.

Looking at the approved rate plan as a whole, customers will pay less than they would have under Georgia Power’s initial request, which proposed raising rates by $2.9 billion over three years. The approved plan also reduces the first year rate impact on rate payers by roughly $11, compared to what the company had asked for.

For approving a smaller rate increase, Farley did praise the commission.

“As energy prices rise, we must ensure they are borne equitably among our residents,” Farley said. “We are pleased that the Public Service Commission agreed to reduce the originally requested rate increase, and to increase the senior citizen discount.”

A note of disclosure

This coverage is supported by a partnership with 1Earth Fund, the Kendeda Fund and Journalism Funding Partners. You can learn more and support our climate reporting by donating at