- Southern Company CEO Tom Fanning said on Thursday that its subsidiary, Georgia Power, will introduce concepts of resilience in its upcoming Integrated Resource Plan (IRP).
- This is the first time that any of Southern's subsidiaries will model resilience in an IRP, Fanning told the crowd at the Bipartisan Policy Center's energy innovation event in Washington, DC. The CEO has been vocal about the need for physical and cyber security for grid assets and has supported the concept of maintaining coal and nuclear power generation for emergency power needs.
- While Georgia Power’s IRP will be based on the traditional reliability standards, including resiliency in the discussion could lead to further study and a bigger role later, he told reporters.
Considerations for resilience have increased as utilities make plans for a transition to cleaner energy generation. Southern's generation fleet is moving toward "low to no-carbon" by 2050, the CEO said last April. He added that there will still be fossil fuel resources on the company's system, likely natural gas instead of coal.
The announcement plays into a wider effort by the Trump administration to bail out nuclear and coal power plants at risk of retirement. While the Department of Energy's subsidy proposal was rejected by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last year, it opened a generic proceeding on grid resilience, and the administration could pursue other initiatives to bolster uncompetitive plants.
Georgia Power currently designs its system around reliability, assessing different scenarios where the utility could potentially lose part of its transmission system, Fanning said.
"In an integrated regulated framework, as I live in, in the Southeast, it’s pretty clear how we think about the construction of portfolios and how we think about integrated resource plans, as I was just thinking about in Georgia, and we can do that as a system," Fanning said.
"Maybe you take coal plants out of service but you keep them alive in the event that you have a resiliency emergency."
CEO, Southern Company
Adding resiliency considerations means looking beyond protecting transmission assets and generation facilities, "not only dealing with electrons but also dealing with gas pipes, gas storage," Fanning said.
Southern, along with other utilities, are heavily investing in natural gas generation, and increased reliance on the resource has led to concerns about pipeline interruptions or other service problems.
One possible solution is the concept of inactive reserves, Fanning said — mothballed units of power generation, such as coal plants, that can be started based on demand.
"Maybe you take coal plants out of service but you keep them alive in the event that you have a resiliency emergency," Fanning told reporters.
Other options include accounting for more storage options, including gas storage. Southern has diversified its holdings in recent years, purchasing gas utility AGL, buying into the Atlantic Coast Pipeline with Duke and Dominion and acquiring microgrid leader Powersecure.
Georgia Power is expected to file its IRP in late January, Fanning said. Various Southern subsidiaries could potentially mention resilience in their IRPs in the future.