- State regulators on Tuesday approved Georgia Power's long-term resource plan, authorizing the utility to own and operate 80 MW of battery energy storage while increasing its renewables portfolio by 72% by 2024.
- The plan also calls for retiring four coal-fired units at the Hammond plant near Rome, and one coal unit at McIntosh plant near Rincon. Staff of the Public Service Commission (PSC) analyzed the coal units' economics and concluded keeping them online no longer made sense.
- Environmental groups were broadly supportive of the PSC's unanimous decision, but they also criticized Georgia Power's slow phase-out of fossil fuels, including natural gas, and said the utility could do more to grow energy efficiency on its system.
Georgia Power's Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) moves the utility toward a cleaner resource mix, but advocates say it's not fast enough.
"Our expectations for Georgia Power are much higher than what's in this final plan," Stephen Stetson, senior representative for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign in Georgia, said in a statement. "Although this result is more than the company first proposed, it's still much less than Georgia needs."
Expert testimony throughout the proceeding showed larger increases in solar energy were possible, Stetson said.
"It's disappointing to see Georgia Power stagnate on Georgia's booming solar potential," he said.
The approved plan includes 2,260 MW of new renewables, primarily solar, along with its storage additions — Georgia Power says it will grow its renewable generation to 5,390 MW by 2024 and increase the company's total renewable capacity to 22% of its portfolio.
"We are positioning Georgia as a leader in the Southeast in battery energy storage, which is critical to growing and maximizing the value of renewable energy," Georgia Power Senior Vice President and Senior Production Officer Allen Reaves said in a statement.
The utility also plans to increase its use of nuclear power and reduce its use of natural gas, from almost half to about a third of its portfolio by 2024.
And it plans to move ahead with five hydro investment projects at the Terrora, Tugalo, Bartletts Ferry, Nacoochee and Oliver generating facilities. The utility also said it intends to continue with its environmental compliance strategy and close 29 coal ash ponds.
Georgia Power's IRP also includes energy efficiency targets 15% above previous IRPs, though advocates wanted more. The utility said it added new programs for both residential and commercial customers, including an income-qualified efficiency pilot designed to help up to 500 residents reduce household energy demand by 20%.
The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) noted that the efficiency enhancements were a result of PSC Chairman Bubba McDonald's motion to increase the savings targets and boost the program budgets as well, by 10%.
SELC had pushed the commission to order Georgia Power to double its current investment in energy saving measures, and to commit to an annual savings target of at least 1% of prior year sales. McDonald's motion "made key movement in that direction," SELC said.
According to the group, Georgia as a whole — and the city of Atlanta in particular — has a high energy burden.
"More robust efficiency programs would give more customers opportunities to save while avoiding the need for expensive new power plants," SELC said.
"Georgia Power's final plan contains some important, incremental steps toward helping low-income customers save on their electric bills," Nathaniel Smith, Chief Equity Officer at Partnership for Southern Equity, said in a statement. "But because the problem of energy burden in Georgia is so vast, this should be viewed as only the beginning of a much larger push."