Georgia’s solar industry praised in new report by Pew Charitable Trusts

By David Pendered

A new report by Pew Charitable Trusts shows that Georgia is a national leader in solar power and clean energy.

Solar panels on the roof the Atlanta Community Food Bank. Credit: David Pendered

The New York Green Bank intends to finance the clean energy industry, which includes the construction and installation of solar panels such as these atop the Atlanta Food Bank. File/Credit: David Pendered

Released Tuesday, Pew’s report provides more information for policy makers as the nation prepares to respond to new federal policies. The policies are to compel states to reduce carbon emissions associated with power production.

President Obama’s Climate Action Plan aims to reduce overall carbon dioxide emissions from the nation’s power sector by 30 percent, compared to 2005 levels, by 2030, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Georgia appears to be well positioned to be able to expand its production of power by means other than burning coal, according to Pew’s report. The report determined the following nuggets about Georgia’s power industry:

  • “Georgia attracted $666 million in private clean energy investment from 2009 to 2013 and will generate an additional $4.4 billion over the next decade;
  • “Hydropower and biomass currently represent the largest installed capacity of clean energy technologies in the state, with 2 gigawatts and 765 megawatts, respectively;
  • “But solar power is the fastest-growing and is projected to increase by 535 percent between 2014 and 2023. Georgia’s installations represent 3 percent of all new clean energy additions in the United States in 2013.”

All of this conversation is occurring under the umbrella of the federal Climate Action Plan.

As implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency, the plan will not set specific emissions standards for each power plant, according to It does require states to reduce carbon emissions by the power industry.

Georgia's biomass industry is fueled by wood pellets processed in Waycross by this plant operated by Georgia Biomass, LLC. Credit:

Georgia’s biomass industry is fueled by wood pellets processed in Waycross by this plant operated by Georgia Biomass, LLC. Credit:

In October, the Sierra Club of Georgia and GreenLaw released an analysis they said shows how Georgia can reduce carbon pollution while creating jobs, reducing costs of power production, and providing for clean air and water.

The analysis resulted in three proposals the authors said would reduce carbon emissions and bring unspecified “benefits” to Georgia:

  1. Solidify planned coal retirements and phase out additional non-economic coal units in Georgia to meet 33 percent of the proposed carbon reductions;
  2. Ramp up energy efficiency to 1.5 percent annual savings by 2030 and achieve an additional 48 percent of the target reductions.
  3. Add solar and wind power, with these clean energies producing 10 percent of Georgia’s power by 2030, to achieve the full proposed target reductions in carbon pollution.

The Georgia Legislature weighed in on the federal plan earlier this year. The House and Senate passed House Resolution 1158.

HR 1158 calls on: “The Administration and Congress to establish a national energy policy that strengthens access to and removal of impediments to all available domestic sources of energy to improve its affordability and reliability; and for other purposes,” according to the resolution’s summary statement.

According to NCSL, HR 1158 is among 20 resolutions passed by 16 states regarding the federal plan. Most address state authority to devise carbon regulations. HR 1158 calls for additional time to allow the development of technology for carbon capture and sequestration, according to the NCSL synopsis.

Pew’s report presents a generally glowing image of Georgia’s posture on power production. The overview of Pew’s report states:

  • “Abundant solar and biomass resources, falling costs of materials, innovative research, and state policies have launched Georgia into the national spotlight as a clean energy leader.
  • “The state ranks No. 1 in the country in commercial timberland, making woody biomass a major component of its renewable energy sector.
  • “Its significant solar potential has been largely untapped until the past year.
  • “Research at state institutions and companies has led to innovation on a wide range of clean energy technologies such as offshore wind, electric vehicles, and microgrids (power generation independent of the electrical grid).
  • “This brief examines Georgia’s success in deploying clean energy and its subsequent economic growth.”


David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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