The numbers are in, and they are impressive: solar is the fastest growing energy industry in the United States. In yet another record-breaking year, the U.S. solar industry installed 7,286 megawatts solar in 2015, even outpacing new natural gas capacity for the first time.
Supporting 200,000 jobs and maintaining double-digit employment growth rates for three consecutive years, the solar industry has come into its own. And the state of Georgia has made moves to take advantage of this new solar era by passing legislation to make residential and commercial solar more affordable.
Last year, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed House Bill 57, also know as the Solar Power Free-Market Financing Act of 2015—or the Solar Power Act, for short. This bill, now law in the Peachtree State, allows homes and businesses to install solar technology via third-party financing agreements. Third-party financing allows solar providers to translate solar’s upfront costs into manageable monthly payments, making solar easily accessible to middle-income households and many other consumers. The bill, which was sponsored by Republican Representative Mike Dudgeon and passed with unanimous support from both sides of the aisle, makes Georgia one of 26 states to explicitly allow these financing options for solar installations.
The availability of third-party financing further bolsters Georgia’s leadership position in clean energy investment, installation, and jobs. While Southern utility and power generation industries may have a reputation for preferring conventional fuels, recent changes in technology costs, law and regulation, and consumer attitude have resulted in significant solar investment.
The aptly named Southern Company, which owns Georgia Power, is investing in both solar farms and residential installations across that state. Southern Co.’s reasons for investing in solar had everything to do with profitability and market demand. As CEO Tom Fanning put it regarding the new law: “If somebody wants to buy distributed generation, I want to sell it to ’em.” The company launched a new customer solar program in July 2015, further adding to Georgia’s growing investment in solar.
Georgia has joined the ranks of states that allow third-party financing as an affordable option for advancing rooftop solar, driving local energy investment, creating jobs, and ensuring a more secure grid. With more growth on the horizon—solar power generation is expected to double nationwide by the end of 2016—Georgia is rapidly positioning itself for long-term success while providing a model for neighboring states like North Carolina.