Over 50 attendees representing 19 Georgia cooperatives gathered in Atlanta for SEDC’s Solar Summit 2015 to discuss approaches to renewable energy across the state.

On July 21, 2015, SEDC hosted a solar summit in Atlanta, Georgia, to provide cooperative utilities an opportunity to understand and adapt to the coming era of renewable generation. The event provided a forum for the utilities to share and discuss practical elements of offering, running, billing, and successfully managing the business of solar energy within the mission of their organizations.

Elaine Johns, CEO of EnerVision, provided an opening overview of industry trends. She attributed the rise in renewable generation to industry drivers including the EPA’s Clean Power Plan ruling on carbon emissions, low cost of oil, rise of fracking, and consumer support for increased use of renewable energy.

Jim Bottone, Director of Regulatory Affairs for Walton EMC, shared how their cooperative in northeast Georgia launched its own community solar program by converting an existing six-acre lot into a one-megawatt solar farm. In the months leading up to Walton’s project go-live, SEDC worked closely with the Walton EMC staff on the necessary system program changes in order to streamline integration of the solar customers’ usage data. Walton EMC’s solar program allows customers to purchase finite blocks of solar electricity on a yearly basis. The kilowatt-hours produced by a customer’s blocks in each calendar month count as offsets of kilowatt-hours on the customer’s bill. Walton EMC began system testing in July and plans to launch the program in September 2015.

Jeff Pratt, CEO of GreenPower EMC, urged utilities to “become the solar energy experts in their communities” even as the markets, technology and regulatory climate continue to shift. GreenPower EMC is a non-profit corporation providing its 38 member utilities in Georgia with green resources. The co-op aims to provide 250 MW of solar power to its Georgia customers by 2016. Pratt described “cooperative power” — in which utilities participate in power purchase agreements (PPA) such as those offered by GreenPower EMC rather than owning the generation resources themselves — as a potential alternative to the community solar model for meeting consumers’ desire for renewable energy.

solarmap

SEDC showed the cooperatives how their innovative UPN software platform manages solar data and presents it not only in a customer’s bill but also in the utility’s UPN-powered Customer Web Portal and Mobile App. A key feature of UPN’s solar integration is the ability to track complex rates, including time of use and peak/off-peak usage at various time intervals.

The strong attendance, lively questions and interest in software enhancements being developed all indicate an industry poised to learn, assess and adapt to changing energy challenges and opportunities. For more information on approaches to solar energy business processes for utilities, please contact SEDC. Follow SEDC on Twitter: @SEDC_UPN and LinkedIn: http://bit.ly/1IOFVR4.