Regulators amend then approve Georgia Power’s energy plan

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia utility regulators on Thursday approved a plan that would shut down a number of Georgia Power Co.’s coal-fired power plants, but not before postponing the death warrant for two units.

The vote came as the Georgia Public Service Commission approved Georgia Power’s plan to meet the electricity demand of its 2.7 million customers over the next 20 years.

The five Republican commissioners also voted to demand that the Atlanta-based unit of Southern Co. increase its investments in energy efficiency and created a process that could lead an outside contractor to build large batteries to store energy. renewable energy until it is needed on the grid.

However, the commissioners, by a 3-2 vote, defeated an effort to raise the cap on the number of rooftop solar panel installations by 75,000 where Georgia Power pays a high rate for electricity generated. Instead, commissioners voted to have a study of the costs and benefits of rooftop solar power done as they vote on a rate increase for Georgia Power in December, leaving the number of attendees frozen at the current level of 5,000 until then.

“We simply don’t have the cost information necessary to set fair and reasonable rates, terms and conditions for rooftop solar,” Commissioner Jason Shaw said, citing the disputed assertion of Georgia Power that rooftop solar customers unfairly shift costs to less affluent customers who do not. have solar panels.

Georgia Power must file the Integrated Resource Plan every three years. Last month, Georgia Power requested a 12% rate increase, driven in part by the need to pay for capital expenditures.

The commission is due to vote on the rate plan in December. If approved, a residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per month would see their bill drop from $128 currently to $144.29 after three years.

Southern Co. has set a 2050 goal to be a net emitter of gases that cause global warming, primarily carbon dioxide. Environmentalists want the company to act faster.

Thursday’s vote will close all other coal units by 2028, some within weeks. But commission staff, the company and industry groups have reached a deal that would keep two coal-fired units at the Bowen plant near Cartersville alive longer, in part due to concerns about high gas prices. natural gas, the amount customers will pay to remove coal-fired power plants, and concerns about maintaining reliable power for metro Atlanta. Even though Georgia Power has declared the Bowen units to be losers, the commission will reassess in 2025 whether they should be shut down.

The commission approved plans for Georgia Power to contract with Southern Power, another subsidiary of its parent company, for 2,400 megawatts of natural gas-generated electricity from 2022 to 2028. This would help Georgia Power bridge the shutdowns of coal-fired power plants with a form of energy that emits carbon, but less than burning coal. Some groups objected to the move, saying it was a personal transaction that would let customers pay for wasted capacity that is dirtier than wind or solar.

The company says it will add 2,300 megawatts of renewable energy by 2025 and a total of 6,000 megawatts by 2035, although proponents have pushed for more in the near term. The commissioners rejected a plan to allow taxpayers to cover the cost of a pilot program to test super-tall wind turbines in the state, saying customers shouldn’t pay for an experiment. They added a call for Georgia Power to seek production from biomass, which often means burning wood pellets, and added a call for contractors to bid on building 500 megawatts of batteries that Georgia Power would operate, in addition to a 265 megawatts. facility to be owned by Georgia Power. Batteries could store solar and wind electricity when there is a surplus of electricity on the grid and release it later.

The plan says nothing new about Georgia Power’s plans to clean up coal ash ponds at various locations across the state. The company had planned to limit some of them, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently said that was a misinterpretation of federal rules, despite approval from the Division of Georgia Environmental Protection, and that utilities must dig up all coal ash and store it. in lined landfills where toxic heavy metals cannot seep into groundwater.

The company said it would seek to renew its license to operate Hatch nuclear power station near Baxley. Georgia Power also said it would seek approval to overhaul three hydroelectric generating stations at Lake Sinclair, Lake Burton and the North Highlands Dam on the Chattahoochee River in Columbus.


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