Monday, May 16, 2011

Atlanta Gas Light Files Plan to Construct CNG Vehicle Fueling Stations

/PRNewswire/ -- With gasoline and diesel pump prices in Georgia hovering in the $4.00 range, Atlanta Gas Light (AGL) today (May 12) filed a plan with the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) to build a network of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fueling stations over the next five years in the metropolitan Atlanta region and along major transportation corridors in the state. The plan also includes low-cost equipment leasing options for home fueling stations. CNG retail prices are over a third less than that of petroleum - $2.19 per gallon of gas equivalent – as currently posted at Georgia retailers.

"Demand for CNG is growing in the United States, and Atlanta Gas Light is committed to attracting interest in this important new investment opportunity to Georgia," said Ian Skelton, director of Atlanta Gas Light's natural gas vehicle program. "Natural gas is abundant and clean, and the U.S. is estimated to have a one hundred year supply that is readily deliverable to Georgia. Fleet owners and vehicle manufacturers are beginning to recognize the significant price advantage CNG holds over petroleum at the pump and, as a result, demand for CNG should increase. Making CNG stations more prevalent and accessible makes sense for Georgia, for businesses and for consumers."

Under the plan to be considered by the PSC later this summer, AGL proposes to invest nearly $12 million dollars to stimulate private investment in the construction of approximately 10 to 15 fueling stations, depending on the size of the station and the level of private investment. The stations would be owned and operated by private retailers who must invest approximately 50 percent of the cost of the CNG station. Retailers would purchase natural gas from certificated marketers and resell it as CNG to the public. The initial station locations will be largely determined based on proximity to commercial fleet customers who contract for service.

The capital used to seed the market would be expended from the Universal Service Fund, which is funded from rates paid by industrial customers and proceeds shared by energy asset management firms. AGL annually requests funds from the USF for line extensions to serve new customers and new regions of the state. The recessed economy has stalled line extensions that normally would come with growth, leaving a temporary surplus in the fund that can be used to foster CNG growth.

Atlanta Gas Light will not sell CNG to the public nor participate in the commercial operation of the stations as part of this program. AGL will own and maintain the CNG equipment connected to its traditional natural gas distribution system, enabling USF dollars to be used to construct the CNG facilities. Atlanta Gas Light will collect transportation delivery charges and actual costs associated with operations and maintenance from retailers. Revenue collected from a separate equipment utilization fee will be placed in a reserve account to fund a portion of the cost of leasing home refueling stations, erecting additional CNG facilities, and making repairs and replacing the CNG equipment.

In order to qualify for funding, applicants must demonstrate financial resources sufficient to secure the real estate for the station, develop the site consistent with local zoning, fund at least 50 percent of the total CNG station costs, and produce contracts with fleet or end use customers that utilize no less than 15,000 gas equivalent gallons per year for five years. The 50 percent match requirement is reduced to 20 percent after the first year if there are sufficient funds remaining.

The plan is the product of months of market studies and public hearings followed by legislative action. After filing a conceptual plan last September at the urging of PSC Commissioner Doug Everett, two public hearings were held in November 2010 and January 2011 to refine the plan. In March, the Georgia General Assembly gave express authorization for USF funds to be utilized for natural gas fueling infrastructure for motor vehicles.

Construction and maintenance of CNG facilities is not new to Atlanta Gas Light. The company installed its first CNG pumps at a public station in downtown Atlanta in the early 1990's. In 1996, AGL began its service to MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) when the transportation agency converted its bus fleet to CNG in advance of Atlanta hosting the Summer Olympics. Currently, the company owns equipment located at 10 CNG stations operated by private fleets and located on customer-owned premises, including municipal transit agencies, and has installed numerous others. The company also provides maintenance services to about 40 additional fleet customers who own their own CNG stations.

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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Georgia Solar Tax Credits Spur Economic Growth

/PRNewswire/ -- With the signature of Governor Nathan Deal, Georgia's solar energy tax credit is increasing to $5 million annually in 2012, 2013 and 2014 from the current $2.5 million yearly limit. The new law, which the General Assembly approved last month, helps ensure that the vibrant solar energy industry in Georgia continues to thrive, creating jobs and new investment opportunities statewide.

Businesses are eligible to receive up to $500,000 in tax credits to offset the cost of installing solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity generating systems, and homeowners are eligible to receive up to $10,500 in tax credits for residential solar energy systems. The tax credits must be taken over four years. If the $5 million ceiling is reached in any year, eligible taxpayers on a waiting list will have priority over taxpayers that apply for the credits in subsequent years. The Georgia Department of Revenue will determine other administrative details about the tax credits.

Georgia Solar Energy Association (GSEA) Board Member and Advocacy & Education Committee Chairman Greg Chafee, head of the Energy Practice at Morris Manning & Martin, said Governor Deal's leadership made a crucial difference in creating the new solar investment opportunity.

"Thanks to support from Governor Deal, Senate Floor Leader Ronnie Chance (R-Peachtree City), and Representative David Knight, (R-Griffin) Chairman of the Special Committee on Small Business Development and Job Creation, a robust solar energy industry in Georgia will generate employment, improve and diversify our energy infrastructure, and bring the latest in technological innovation to the state," Chafee said.

Anthony Coker, Senior Director for Suniva, Inc., and Vice-Chairman of GSEA, said the increased solar tax credits will help Georgia compete in the economic development market with a meaningful ripple effect on the state's economy.

GSEA board member Sylvia Minton, senior vice president for Mage Solar, a German solar manufacturer with a production facility in Dublin, Ga., Board Member James Marlow, CEO of Radiance Solar, and GSEA State Program Director Joy Kramer attended the signing ceremony at the Georgia State Capitol.

In 2010, clean energy tax credits totaling almost $2 million were awarded to 47 solar PV projects and 90 solar water heating installations in Georgia. The tax credits helped to develop major new solar energy projects including:

* Choate Construction Company Headquarters Building, Atlanta, 74 KW capacity, designed and built by Empower Energy Technology, Atlanta, $575,000 pre-incentive value.
* White Oak Pastures, Bluffton, Ga., beef processing facility, 50,000-watt capacity, $326,000 pre-incentive value, designed and built by Hannah Solar, Atlanta.
* Persimmon Creek Vineyards, sustainable winery in Clayton, GA, solar array designed and built by Radiance Solar, Atlanta.


GSEA Chairman Doug Beebe said he is grateful that Governor Deal and legislative leaders recognize the growing contribution the solar industry is making to Georgia's economy.

"The increased availability of tax credits provides encouragement and support for our hard-working, solar manufacturers, installers, suppliers and consultants to help ensure that they continue to grow and flourish," Beebe said while also noting the upcoming June 24th Solar Summit at Georgia Tech Research Institute Conference Center.

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