Solar Power Company Wants to Be New Utility; Radical Proposal Submitted to Georgia Public Service Commission

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Byline: Walter C. Jones

ATLANTA | A proposal from a start-up business promises to lower electricity rates by rebating profits to customers if it is given a chance to compete as Georgia Power Co.'s "mirror image."

To begin its long-range plan of developing 2 gigawatts of solar power, the start-up, Georgia Solar Utilities Inc., or GaSU, wants to build an 80-megawatt "solar farm" near Milledgeville as soon as it gets approval from the Georgia Public Service Commission. GaSU filed its request last week, and as of Monday, it's still too fresh for public evaluation.

So radical is the proposal that Georgia Power and the Georgia Solar Energy Association representatives said they were still evaluating it and could not comment. Groups that normally advocate for customers are also being quiet.

GaSU executives recognize such a big change won't come easily.

"There are obstacles. There's no question there are obstacles, but you have to look at the rewards," GaSU President Robert E. Green said at a Capitol news conference. "We don't know what it's going to take, but we are prepared to go through legislative action if necessary."

Legislative action is indeed likely to be necessary, according to observers. A 40-year-old law divides the state up and gives regional monopolies to Georgia Power, electric-membership cooperatives and nearly 50 cities.

Anyone familiar with the nasty fights that were frequent before the law's passage tends to be reluctant to open it up to changes.

That was the reaction last year to legislation sponsored by Sen. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, that sought to alter the law so that other companies could sell solar power in small batches to customers who make their roofs available as sites for solar panels through purchased-power agreements. …