- State regulators unanimously approved Georgia Power’s 2022 Integrated Resources Plan, or IRP, on Thursday, which includes retiring all of its coal plants by 2028, with the exception of two units from Plant Bowen totaling nearly 1,600 MW.
- The Georgia Public Service Commission will re-evaluate Bowen Unit 1 and 2 in the next IRP, scheduled for 2025. As Georgia Power’s fleet transitions from coal, regulators also approved 2.3 GW of solar to be procured by 2025 and nearly 2.4 GW of natural gas power purchase agreements, as proposed by the utility.
- While the approval of the three-year plan did not include the utility’s cost recovery of coal ash clean-up costs, the environmental advocacy group Sierra Club said it seeks to address such concerns in Georgia Power’s upcoming rate case.
The IRP decision comes a week after the Georgia Supreme Court denied a petition from the Sierra Club to review the PSC’s 2019 decision to allow the utility to charge their customers for coal ash pond closure costs.
Sierra Club has been litigating the matter for years, trying to ensure that Southern Company subsidiary Georgia Power does not have a carte blanche for charging ratepayers for its coal ash expenses, alleging that the utility knew its coal ash storage contaminates groundwater.
“Costs related to environmental compliance, including ash pond closures, are overseen by the Georgia PSC,” and Sierra Club’s arguments “have repeatedly been rejected by the Courts,” John Kraft, utility spokesperson, said in an e-mail.
This spring, the utility raised its estimates from $7.2 billion to almost $9 billion in spending over 60 years to excavate coal ash ponds to lined landfills, having already spent $944 million on coal ash assets and activities.
“We seek recovery of costs that are necessary to serve customers, and costs are reviewed and approved by the Georgia PSC before being added to rates. We will continue to evaluate and, if needed, refine, our CCR/coal ash compliance strategy to ensure plans remain in the best interest of customers,” Kraft said.
Now, the advocacy group is discussing a legal strategy for the upcoming rate case.
“Our priority is still to make sure that Georgia Power's closure plans comply with state and federal regulations of coal combustion residuals, and that ratepayers don't have to pay for them to clean up their mess,” Isabella Ariza, an associate attorney with the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign, said.
Some environmental advocates, including the Sierra Club, maintain the utility’s IRP was not aggressive enough in its energy transition. The utility views it as a significant step in cleaner resources, nearly doubling its solar capacity.
The PSC also approved a 265-MW battery project, along with a motion from Commissioner Lauren McDonald to add 500 MW of energy storage.
“As Georgia continues to grow and the energy landscape continues to evolve, it’s incredibly important that we keep making the smart investments needed for our customers to have clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy for decades to come. The approval of our latest Integrated Resource Plan helps us do just that,” Chris Womack, president, CEO and chairman of Georgia Power, said in a statement.