Georgia can be a national leader in advanced energy, and has the potential to be globally competitive. The state is already home to 801 advanced energy firms that contribute an estimated $3.3 billion in gross revenues while providing nearly 24,000 full-time jobs. Extensive research and more than 40 interviews with local experts and stakeholders identified two economic sectors with particular promise for jobs: smart buildings and solar energy.
Georgia has a well-established innovation ecosystem featuring strong education, research and development, and is home to many Fortune 500 companies. Georgia already has innovative economic clusters in smart buildings and solar energy. The state’s policymakers can build on existing strengths with policies to help businesses grow, innovate, and outcompete regional, national, and global competitors. With the right policies in place, Georgia can support an average of 24,000 jobs annually through 2030 in the smart buildings and solar energy sectors.
This project serves as a research-based roadmap for state and local leaders in Georgia. It provides a set of policy options that build on existing programs and strengths in the state and focus on leveraging Georgia’s resources to create skilled, good-paying jobs.
Summary of Policy Recommendations
The analysis presented in this report culminates in recommendations for Georgia’s policymakers based on best practices in the United States and abroad. Each set of recommendations identifies opportunities for removing barriers and growing the smart buildings and solar energy sectors. While the recommendations are intended to be complementary and would be powerful if adopted as a package, each can also be viewed as a stand-alone option.
Streamline Solar Permitting: Reduce the soft costs of installing solar by simplifying permitting processes, lowering permit fees, and establishing consistent interconnection requirements throughout Georgia.
Encourage Foreign Direct Investment: Recruit foreign solar companies and manufacturers to Georgia in order to boost investment and fill gaps in the supply chain.
Create a Property Tax Exemption for Solar: Incentivize residential investment in solar by granting property tax exemptions for solar panel installations and other advanced energy technologies.
Offer a Green Source Rider Program: Establish a utilities-led program that allows energy-intensive customers, such as big-box retailers, college campuses, and data centers, to voluntarily purchase renewable energy.
Establish a Solar Factory Retooling Financing Program: Increase solar manufacturing in Georgia by providing capital for retooling factories, purchasing equipment, and building facilities.
Smart Buildings and Energy Efficiency Technology
Make Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Financing Simple: Encourage energy efficiency building upgrades by allowing property owners to finance investments with loans that are repaid through their property tax bills.
Expand On-Bill Financing for Georgia Power: Provide utility customers with an on-bill financing option in order to mitigate the high upfront costs of home energy improvements.
Use Revenue Decoupling to Encourage Energy Efficiency: Establish a mechanism that decouples a utility’s fixed rates and variable rates (based on sales) in order to stabilize utility earnings and remove disincentives for supporting energy efficiency programs.
Adopt Municipal Benchmarking Ordinances: Establish city-level benchmarking ordinances throughout the state in order to monitor commercial building energy performance, encourage smart building investments, and achieve environmental benefits.
Update Georgia Building Codes: Adopt the most recent residential and commercial building codes in order to expand the market for energy efficient structures.
Pilot a Dynamic Rate Structure: Help utilities reduce peak demand and avoid costly investments in generating facilitates by piloting a dynamic rates program. With dynamic rates, customers would pay the real-time cost of generation rather than the average cost. They would respond to the higher price of power at peak times by reducing energy use.
Innovation Ecosystem and Access to Capital
Establish a Capital Gains Tax Exemption for Investment in Startups: Increase the flow of venture capital by establishing a capital gains tax exemption for investments in targeted Georgia startups.
Facilitate Partnerships within the Energy Innovation Ecosystem: Attract public and private research money and venture capital funding to Georgia by aligning advanced energy sector efforts and establishing collaborative partnerships among various stakeholders.
Develop Certificate and Degree Programs Around High-Performance Buildings: Collaborate with Georgia’s universities and technical colleges to create certificate and degree programs that prepare students for jobs in the smart buildings and energy efficiency sector.
Develop Degree Programs in Energy Engineering and Sustainability Science: Prepare students for jobs in the solar and smart buildings industries by establishing more formal degree programs related to advanced energy engineering and sustainability science.
Create More Apprenticeship Opportunities in Advanced Energy Technologies: Meet employer demand for trained workers and prepare Georgians for jobs in advanced energy sectors by incentivizing companies to expand apprenticeship opportunities.