Solar Bill Would Allow Georgia Power To Lend Directly To Homeowners
A bill aimed at making it easier for homeowners to install solar panels is making its way through the Georgia House. It would allow third parties, including utilities like Georgia Power, to provide financing for solar installation.
Georgia Power as a direct lender is a new concept, but one that bill supporters say will benefit consumers.
Georgia is one of the fastest growing solar markets in the country. Most of the growth, however, is from building large solar farms and other utility-scale projects.
"If you look at how Georgia is doing, we’re way behind in the small business and residential area," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Mike Dudgeon, R-Johns Creek. "What we believe is that this will start to open the market for companies to come in who finance which means the $15,000, $20,000 $25,000 upfront cost goes away."
Under the bill, Georgia Power would be able to compete directly with private lenders like California-based Solar City in offering financing to homeowners.
Georgia Power, which backs the bill, says it’s still exploring the idea.
Solar companies eager to see the bill pass say they won't mind if Georgia Power throws their hat in the ring.
“Competition is good," said Jason Rooks, a lobbyist with the Georgia Solar Energy Industries Association. He doesn’t anticipate Georgia Power getting any type of unfair advantage. He points to language in the bill giving the Georgia Public Service Commission an oversight role if Georgia Power decides to opt in.
"I have full faith in the Georgia PSC to regulate any program Georgia Power starts," said Rooks.
Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols welcomes the oversight role and hopes Georgia Power launches a program. He notes that in states where third party financing is already legal homeowners have fallen for bogus deals from shady lenders.
"I feel like Georgia Power is going to operate with more integrity and we have more accountability with them," said Echols. "Beyond that, we have to make sure consumers are being careful and that it's buyer beware."
The full House is expected to vote on Dudgeon’s bill this week.