Today, Georgia’s renewable energy industry shows yet again that what’s good for the environment can also be very good for the economy. Georgia’s clean energy sector attracted $477 million in private investment in 2013, the eighth-highest figure in the nation. Of that, $326 million went to the solar sector, a 1,025 percent increase over 2012. The state is now home to more than 140 solar companies.
Georgia Power is also working with the U.S. Army Energy Initiatives Task Force to build, own and operate solar power systems at three Army bases: Fort Stewart, Fort Benning and Fort Gordon. By 2016, each base will house 30 megawatts of installed solar capacity that together will produce 18 percent of the energy used on the bases and will move the Army 9 percent closer to its goal of deploying 1 gigawatt of renewable energy by 2025.
As solar power storage and transmission improve, Georgia will enjoy another economic opportunity: A study by Arizona State University ranked it third among states that would benefit the most from selling solar power to other states.
To maintain and build on this momentum, Georgia’s growing solar industry needs the federal government to extend the investment tax credit, which allows residential and commercial customers to take a federal tax deduction of 30 percent of the cost of a solar system; that credit is set to expire at the end of this year. Industry leaders say the credit has helped fuel solar installation growth of more than 1,600 percent nationally since 2006. That growth, in turn, has helped to drive the cost of solar down 80 percent since 2009.
This federal tax policy is a complement to the state’s energy policies, which include a 2013 public service commission directive calling for Georgia Power to add 525 megawatts of solar power by 2016; a buy-back program that allows customers to purchase electricity from the utility’s solar portfolio; interconnection guidelines that enable residential customers who have installed clean energy systems to link to the main grid; and “net metering,” which allows residential customers to generate electricity from their systems to offset bills from the power company.
The evidence is clear: Georgia is establishing itself as a leader in clean, reliable, affordable, job-creating solar energy. Extending the federal investment tax credit will help ensure that even more Georgians benefit from harnessing the power of this plentiful resource.