Tim Echols could be running a Chick-Fil-A restaurant in Texas right now. Instead, he’s the vice-chair of a powerful state regulatory agency that keeps watch over big gas-and-electric companies like Georgia Power.

Echols is entering the last year of his second term representing his Athens-area district of the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC), an oft-overlooked part of state government that regulates public utilities from energy to telecom. The commission can conduct investigations, gather evidence, inspect properties and records of regulated companies as well as set rates. It has an annual budget of just over $10 million.

In his elected role at the PSC the Republican, who is running for a third term, has championed solar power and electric vehicles. He also created the Clean Energy Roadshow, an annual traveling showcase of sustainable technologies across the state. During his time on the commission, Georgia went from being ranked 34th in solar energy production to being ranked 4th among states by 2024. In his office, a solar thermal panel has been converted into a coffee table.

State Affairs sat down with Echols for a conversation about his life, career, and views at his office near the State Capitol in Atlanta just as Gov. Brian Kemp announced that Electric Vehicle manufacturer Rivian would set up shop in Georgia. His responses have been edited for length and clarity. 

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