Georgia Gains Ground On Energy Efficiency

Posted on December 22nd, 2010 by

In 2007, the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance (SEEA) officially opened up its doors in Atlanta as a regional nonprofit focused on transforming the marketplace for energy efficiency.

In a part of the country where energy consumption is historically higher and prices of energy are lower, SEEA had, and still has, a noble goal to see real market update of energy-efficiency efforts.

Over the last four years, SEEA has been able to make substantial movement in the 12-state region that it covers. A Significant portion of that works has been seen here, locally, in Georgia. One of our first efforts in Georgia was to attempt to entice the private sector to embrace more energy-efficiency efforts by seeking state-wide tax incentives for energy efficiency, such as tax credits for lighting upgrades, building envelope retrofits (i.e. windows, insulation, etc.), geothermal systems, and the inclusion of incentives for solar PV, solar thermal and wind.

The state legislature adopted House Bill 670 in 2008; it set forth $2.5 million for tax incentives for energy efficiency and renewable energy project for the commercial and residential sectors. This bill mimicked federal credits available and placed Georgia on the map as competitive with neighboring states like North Carolina and Florida. The market uptake of these credits has been significant and each year the credits have been sold out.

To take steps further, when the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) was announced and funds made their way to Georgia, SEEA began to work with the state on programs for the funds. So in 2009, working with the state legislature, we worked on the creation of House Bill 473, which took the tax credits above and turned them into grants in lieu of tax credits. Needless to say that this effort funded under ARRA was a quick sellout. In addition, SEEA worked with many partners on competitive grant programs introduced by the state for ARRA funds and was able to assist Oglethorpe Power Corp, with awards to begin residential and industrial energy-efficiency programs in the Electric Membership Cooperative (EMC) territories.

Following that same path, SEEA became active in working on programs that have a direct impact to Atlanta and Decatur.
Through a funding award won by SEEA in June 2010, SEEA received $20 million to work with 13 cities across the Southeast to develop and scale residential energy-efficiency programs. Both Atlanta and Decatur are participants in this program, and we are working with each city and Georgia Power to develop comprehensive residential energy retrofit programs.

Another effort to making the market change in Georgia was a recent success just in November 2010. SEEA, with many of its private-sector members, decided to tackle a historical challenge for the state. Based on the State of Georgia Constitution, our own state agencies and many local governments could not enter into long-term energy-saving performance contracts to make state buildings more energy efficient.

A longstanding issue with long-term contracts and prohibition by the state constitution made making the building more efficient not practical, so, with a team, SEEA sought for the support of Amendment 4, which passed public vote in November 2010 to amend the constitution to allow state agencies to enter into long-term energy saving contracts.

This is a game-changer for the state and local government in Georgia. SEEA prides itself on the vision and leadership we have taken to see Georgia and Atlanta as a leader in the energy sector. We continue to look for opportunities to open the market. Whether it is advising on program areas and design, conducting research or working with our elected officials, SEEA is sitting in a seat to make history for a new energy economy in Georgia.

I have had the fortune last few years to serve on boards and create new organizations to further this mission. My work, outside of SEEA, as a board member with the Green Chamber of the South, has provided an opportunity to focus attention on growing and driving more green and efficient businesses in Georgia.

I also serve on the board of the American Israel Chamber of Commerce, where I have had the opportunity to bring expertise and innovation technology from Israel to Georgia. Finally, in late 2010, I have had the opportunity to start a new organization, the Global Cleantech Cluster Association, which is creating a conduit for next-generation Cleantech companies to access global capital, networks, technologies and markets to accelerate a global sustainable economy.

Taube is the Executive Director of the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance.

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