Copyright © The Southern Property Rights Council, Inc. All rights reserved.
competing states creates an need for necessary state-level energy policy improvements that can no longer be put off to the future. Investments in modern energy technology are now essential to the long-term economic health of the Tennessee economy. The future is now.
Energy Independence Creates New Challenges
Tennessee’s economy - in fact our way of life - is highly dependent on secure, affordable, and reliable energy. Though the U.S. has abundant and diverse sources of domestic energy, Tennessee’s energy challenges are growing just as energy independence becomes a reality. We now face a new century, one with an growing complex array of competing energy resources, complicated federal and state taxes, and increasingly complex and new energy regulations, along with a still recovering Tennessee economy. In this mix, both individuals and businesses now more than ever are struggling to invest in and deploy new energy technologies which have proven to reduce energy costs and make it easier to comply with new regulations. Solar energy is one such proven technology.
The Way Forward
The Tennessee Property Rights Council, LLC. (TPRC) therefore believes there is an opportunity to favorably influence energy policy in the 2016 Tennessee legislative session, and that such educational efforts of TPRC will have a positive impact for the state of Tennessee irrespective of partisan considerations.
The educational efforts of the TPRC consist of several distinct initiatives, described in detail below.
Strategic Energy Policy Initiative
This initiative is supported by the TPRC board made up of highly experienced solar industry professionals, CPAs, attorneys, and representatives of respected Tennessee non-profit organizations that support the solar energy industry in Tennessee.
As Tennessee struggles to emerge from a historic recession, solar energy has emerged as both a bright spot and a source of ongoing challenges for the state’s long-term prosperity and security. The CleanTech industry in particular has become one of Tennessee’s larger employers. The solar industry is now employing more people than sectors of both the oil and coal industry, and the solar industry now employs a greater percentage of U.S. Military Veterans than any other industry. It’s time for Tennessee to have a state energy policy that supports the solar industry.
On the one hand, when adjusted for economic growth and inflation, the United States has cut its energy needs by more than 50 percent since 1973. This trend shows no signs of slowing. Accordingly, treating this 40- year reduction as the equivalent of new energy supply, the resulting resource is significantly larger than the expansion of output from all other energy resources combined over the same period. In addition, there have been major positive developments on the supply side: Domestic oil, natural gas, and renewable energy production are up, while energy imports are down; new domestic energy development in the fossil fuel sector is driving a jobs boom in many parts of the country; and lower energy costs are helping the U.S. manufacturing sector recover.
The combination of these trends means that the state is arguably more energy secure than it has been in more than a generation. But the news is not all good: Tennessee’s electric utilities are scheduled to retire many megawatts of coal-fired power plant capacity, resulting in increased reliance on natural gas, and the associated risk of price volatility, and new nuclear capacity, which is always subject to regulatory risks and disruptions, particularly because our nation has utterly failed to come up with a long-term, sustainable solution for nuclear waste storage. Not to mention that as both the U.S. and Tennessee population grows, the demands on the natural resources of Tennessee requires the state to adopt energy generation technology which reduces the impact on the state’s water resources, freeing up those resources for human consumption, agriculture and tourism rather than electricity production.
In addition, despite the advent of U.S. fossil-fuel based energy independence, affordable energy is still a challenge for many Tennessee households and small businesses that continue to suffer the lingering effects of the economic recession and increasing energy costs.
History of The Organization
The parent company of the TPRC (the Southern Property Rights Council - SPRC) began as a grass-roots effort in the State of Georgia, under the banner of the Georgia Property Rights Council (GPRC). The GPRC was (and remains) led by a diverse Energy Board. Launched in 2013 to build the state-level consensus needed to tackle some of these challenges faced by the state of Georgia in the years ahead, the GPRC was successful in working with Georgia’s legislature, governor and all 100 Georgia electric utilities in clarifying existing state law in order to enable all Georgians to realize their property rights via solar leasing and power purchase agreements at home and at work.
Today, folks in Tennessee are fortunate to benefit from the experience of both the GPRC and SPRC.
We at the TPRC believe that the people of Tennessee are entitled to the same property rights ad the folks in Georgia. Both the nation and the state of Tennessee has enormous energy strengths, greatly exceeding those of most industrialized nations and many other U.S. states. Building on these strengths to deliver affordable, secure, and reliable solar energy in a responsible manner is the overarching goal of the TPRC.
Specifically, we, the Energy Board, believe Tennessee’s energy policy should be designed to advance four core objectives:
We believe that one of the best ways to meet these objectives is through the use of solar energy and specifically, 3rd party solar power purchase agreements and lease financing. It is through use of these financing vehicles that individuals, businesses, governments and non-profits can lower the cost of entry to solar energy technology. In order for individuals and businesses to realized the same freedoms and rights as the people of Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, folks in Tennessee must be allowed to lease solar equipment or acquire solar energy through 3-rd party ownership based PPAs.
What Needs Fixing In Tennessee
While the history and interpretation of Tennessee electric utility laws do support the rights and freedoms of Tennessean’s to lease or PPA finance solar, unfortunately, the state law in this area is not sufficiently clear. Because the meaning of Tennessee law on this point is disputed by some of Tennessee’s electric utilities, the lack of clarity in the law has for years now prevented or dampened the extent to which all the people of Tennessee may freely utilize solar energy to lower their energy costs without state law or government regulations unreasonably limiting or preventing their free exercise of their property rights.
Thus, the TPRC’s mission is to educate Tennessee legislators and the public on the beneficial aspects of 3rd party solar power purchase agreements and solar lease financing, and to specifically pursue clarity in the law in order to enable the citizens of Tennessee, both corporate and individual, to enter into these legal energy financing agreements necessary to obtain clean, efficient and affordable solar power in Tennessee to the same extent and on equal footing with those who live in nearby states like Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.
It is important to emphasize at the outset that the actions we propose in each of these areas should be viewed as package. All are necessary, none stand alone as a limited alternative.
Taken together, we believe this path provides the blueprint for a balanced and effective plan for enhancing the economy of Tennessee, the nation’s prosperity, state and national energy security and sustainable air and water quality in the 21st century by means of solar energy adoption.
The TPRC therefore establishes the following core principles that shall guide its education efforts.
The Modern Age of Energy
Today in America, we face extensive global oil, natural gas and coal market risks. These risks are caused by increasing world-wide competition for fossil fuel derived energy. In addition, rising international and domestic environmental compliance concerns for the first time directly impact Tennessee’s largest corporations, which increases the costs of energy for all consumers at all levels. Confronting these growing challenges as Tennessee's business community struggles to maintain a strong state economy and keep pace with
Statement of Principles: The Tennessee Property Rights Council, LLC (TPRC)