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Georgia utility regulator backs solar power subsidy
Ga. Power will oppose plans that force it to buy renewable power
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ATLANTA — One of the state’s top utility regulators said Tuesday that he would support charging Georgia Power customers up to an extra nickel each month to build more solar energy projects and even debate whether Georgia should force the power company to buy more renewable energy — a position that’s been politically unpopular in the Southeast.

Public Service Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, a Republican, surprised other members of the commission when he announced his political change of heart at a public hearing Tuesday. He previously called on Georgia Power, a subsidiary of the Atlanta-based Southern Co., to add another 50 megawatts of solar electricity in its portfolio.

“I’m just trying to stir the pot and get us looking outside the box,” McDonald said in an interview where he described his proposal for a maximum 5 cent monthly solar charge.

Under McDonald’s proposal, the extra money collected to subsidize solar power would bridge the gap between what Georgia Power is willing to pay for the solar electricity that it distributes to its customers and the prices that solar developers say they need to make a reasonable profit. It is not clear if his idea will find much support.

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