How We Power Our Homes & Individual Rights
Another Guest Blog: This time…Aaron Matthews. Aaron has worked in government affairs for over ten years, in states all across the United States. An avid student of Objectivist philosophy and economics, he’s constantly on the lookout for issues affecting individual rights at the Georgia State Capitol.
You might think Georgia, being a bastion of conservatism in America, would be a place where innovation can prosper. You might think that Ronald Reagan’s statement that the best minds are not in government, or else businesses would steal them away, was something that Georgians could take comfort in. You would think, but then again, you would be wrong, at least when it comes to the choices about how we power our homes. In Georgia, forty some odd lobbyists and millions of dollars at the Gold Dome stand in the way of market economics from allowing consumers how their property is powered. This is wrong, and the bill winding its way through the Georgia Senate that would allow for solar power purchasing agreements (SPPAs) is a step in the right direction.
Briefly, PPAs are essentially private agreements between owners of electricity generating systems and an individual consumer. On one hand, the seller agrees to front the capital costs associated with the power generating system (in terms of solar – photovoltaic cells, mounting brackets, etc.). On the other hand, the buyer agrees to compensate the seller a fixed cost based on the output of those systems. The seller gets the benefit of all the tax credits and income from the solar systems, and the buyer gets the benefit of contractually fixed cost electrical prices for the long term. The best part, the agreement is completely voluntary. Buyers need not worry about such agreements if they do not choose to do so. It’s an arrangement so great that 46 states in America legally allow these agreements. Georgia, unfortunately, is not one of them.
This brings us to the topic of Georgia Power, which is essentially a state protected monopoly. Want to turn on your television? Talk to Georgia Power. Need to open your garage to get work? Hope you paid your Georgia Power bill. Do you like having air conditioning? Well, Georgia Power will be happy to make sure you don’t bake through the summer month. And just to make sure you enjoy Georgia Power’s monopoly even more, you are paying monthly fees on your energy bill each month to construct Reactors 3 and 4 and Plant Vogtle. If you move away from Georgia, you don’t get that money back.
With a room packed full of lobbyists this past Thursday, they collectively expressed their disdain for a rider attached to SB 459 by Buddy Carter. Originally SB 401, this bill would allow Georgians to express their economic rights like citizens of nearly every other state do by allowing Solar PPAs to finance private solar energy systems. As it stands, Solar PPAs are not something Georgia Power is very fond of. Why should they? When the state protects your monopoly, anything that allows consumers to reduce the power you hold is a realistic threat to your state guaranteed bottom-line. I wish we were all so lucky.
Flat out, Georgia Power is wrong. They are wrong on the facts and the philosophy behind their stance on this issue.
Georgia Power claims this will drive up retail rates for consumers, particularly those that do not choose to install solar panels. In terms of dollars, the cost of energy per BTU in Georgia is right in the middle, meaning states with solar PPAs rank both higher in lower. Georgia’s price per kilowatt hour is also higher than twenty-eight other states according to the U.S.
Energy Information Administration. When looking at the prices of energy, in fact, the prices are greatly impacted by the availability of energy sources – coal, petroleum, hydroelectric – which explains why states like Idaho and Washington (hydroelectric), North Dakota (petroleum), and Wyoming (coal) all have much lower energy prices for consumers.
The philosophy of state protected monopolies is what is most bothersome here. To put it bluntly, it is downright immoral for our elected officials to dictate who we purchase our services from in Georgia. Their fundamental responsibility is to protect our rights to choose the options that are best suited for our lives, not protect us from ourselves and what could amount to be bad choices. It’s the philosophy that underlies the higher power bills you’re paying to Georgia Power.
Let’s make our energy cheaper than the talk of elected officials. Solar PPAs are good policy. They help to drive the costs of electricity down to consumers who choose them, and they help to build jobs around the production, installation, and service of these systems. Contact members of the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee and let them know you support SB459.