Solar advocate Lauren “Bubba” McDonald appointed GPSC chair

Times are changing the Deep South. After 24 years of serving on the Georgia Public Service Commission (GPSC), Stan Wise (R) chaired his last session of the body yesterday before retiring.

In his place, the board has named Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald (R) as chair, who for years has been a leader in pushing pro-solar policies at the regulatory body. McDonald pushed Georgia Power to purchase its first 50 MW of utility-scale solar PV in 2010 and, not satisfied with the slow rate of change, had advocated for a “solar utility” in 2012 which would have challenged Georgia Power’s monopoly.

This was a bold move in a state where Georgia Power’s parent, Southern Company, is referred to as the “fourth branch of government”. However, it is notable that Georgia Power responded to such pressures with the creation of a program to procure 210 MW of large-scale solar.

McDonald has been assisted in his efforts to push solar not only by political ally H. Doug Everett (R), but also by Tim Echols (R), another pro-solar Republican on the commission, which gave proponents of large-scale solar a majority on the regulatory body.

Since that time, Georgia Power has greatly increased its procurement of large-scale solar, including a recent 595 MW solicitation through its Renewable Energy Development Initiative (REDI).

The development of behind-the-meter solar remains limited in part due to Georgia Power’s insistence on maintaining its monopoly against third-party ownership. However, despite this Georgia became the third-largest solar market in the United States in 2016, with more than 1 GW installed during the year.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal (R) has appointed political ally Tricia Pridemore (R) to fill the seat vacated by Stan Wise.