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ROBERTSON COLUMN: Georgia needs more clean energy to stimulate the economy

By Randy Robertson
Represents district 29 in Georgia Senate

Clean energy has become an economic boom for Georgia. We are growing in solar installations, solar jobs, and access to clean, cost-efficient energy. This clean energy expansion has a variety of benefits —  from making our state’s economy stronger and providing more jobs to creating a more sustainable place for future generations. Solar energy and the growth of electric vehicles add an incredible benefit to Georgia’s economy and improve our quality of life.

Over the course of my three legislative sessions, I have supported policies that help our state grow and become a better place. That is why I have co-sponsored Senate Bill 299 which includes amendments to the 2015 Solar Free-Market Act and the Cogeneration Act of 2001. SB 299 also includes more opportunities for churches and nonprofits to do community solar programs when rooftop solar is otherwise not an option.

Georgia is in excellent shape to proceed with more solar and electric battery production to stimulate our economy, improve our air quality, and provide clean, cost-efficient energy. As Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson recently pointed out in the Atlanta Business Chronicle, we are Top Ten in solar production and also led the country in increased solar jobs in 2019. COVID-19 set the industry back as installations and public interaction decreased, but we are well-positioned to have clean energy be a major factor in our economic recovery.

Georgia has also become a magnet for electric vehicle battery production. Governor Kemp’s leadership, along with the our federal delegation, helped ease the international impasse that could have prevented the world’s top producer of electric vehicle batteries from operating in Commerce, Georgia. According to Governor Kemp’s letter to President Biden to intervene in the SK Innovation case, “The plant’s initial yearly output will supply … enough battery capacity for 330,000 electric cars and there are plans for it to expand to employ more than 6,000 workers ….”

In Senate District 29, Fortune 500 companies and local municipalities now have the option to negotiate longer contracts for solar energy because of Senate Bill 95, legislation I sponsored two years ago. Without that ability, we would have missed out on a large facility with hundreds of jobs. We are fortunate to claim home base to The Ray, the nation’s only solar highway and headquarters of their home office which provides cutting edge research for more sustainable transportation systems.

It’s for these reasons and the clear need for more solar energy manufacturing and electric vehicle production, Georgia’s voters want more clean energy.

In a recent UGA poll, 87% of Georgia voters want more solar energy. I am quite certain the 6,000 local employees at the SK Innovation plant want more, too. I applaud Governor Kemp and our federal delegation for protecting our investment in electric battery production and I encourage the Georgia Senate to support Senate Bill 299 to expand solar energy markets in Georgia. It’s the conservative solution for our economy and our quality of life.