Georgians await ruling on clean energy in Georgia Power long-range plan

Guest Blog | July 9, 2013 | Energy Efficiency, Energy Policy, Utilities
Will Georgia get more solar? Will unnecessary dirty coal plants get shut down? Will Georgians get more help saving energy and lowering our bills?

These questions and more are on the line as the state’s elected 5-member Public Service Commission considers Georgia Power Company’s long-range plan, known as the Integrated Resource Plan or IRP (learn more here). The IRP sets forth the company’s plan for generating electricity for the next 20 to 30 years. It is accompanied by a Demand Side Management (DSM) plan that details how the company will invest in saving energy through greater energy efficiency. The end goal is a framework for meeting future energy demand in a cost-effective, reliable and environmentally responsible manner.

The PSC held three public hearings to collect input from citizens and parties who formally intervened in the proceedings, like SACE (read this blog to hear about public testifiers).  Now it is for the Commission to vote on the IRP and DSM plans. The Commissioners can approve or reject the plans as presented or modify the plan. The vote is expected to take place at at a special administrative session on July 11 at 1:30pm, following discussion of the plan at the Energy Committee meeting at 10am that morning, both in the Hearing Room at the PSC offices.

Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley testifies before the commission

SACE has extensive experience with IRPs and DSM plans and the complex modeling utilities use to examine a range of possible future scenarios.  SACE submitted detailed testimony on how the utility’s IRP and DSM plans could and should be improved (download a .zip of our final brief here). We corrected assumptions that we felt were inaccurate and biased the results against greater use of renewables. Based on our analysis, we showed that:

  • The Company’s proposal to retire three of its oldest and least efficient fossil fuel plants as part of this year’s IRP is in the best interests of customers and will advance important environmental and public health protections.
  • The Company’s proposed conversion of Plant Gaston, in Alabama, to run on natural gas doesn’t make economic sense for customers. Georgia Power is entitled to half the output of Plant Gaston, which is why this facility is at issue in the Georgia IRP case. But the proposed conversion is a risky bet for customers. The Gaston units are almost 60 years old and nearing the end of their useful lives. The proposed conversion will be costly and result in units that are highly inefficiently compared to modern gas plants. We urge the Commission to reject the proposed conversion and decertify (retire) the Gaston units instead.
  • More solar power will benefit customers and should be deployed on a greater scale immediately. Solar power is becoming increasingly competitive, and yet the Company failed to include any new solar in its IRP beyond that previously proposed through its Advanced Solar Initiative (ASI). The Company’s plan to acquire 210 MW of solar over the next few years through the ASI program is a positive step, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the solar potential in our state. SACE urges the Commission to direct Georgia Power to expand its commitment to solar power in the short term by 600 MW, through both distributed and utility-scale solar projects. SACE also urges the Commission to establish a separate proceeding aimed at establishing a full and fair value of solar resources so that they receive appropriate consideration in future IRPs, and to order Georgia Power to improve its modeling and evaluation of solar and other renewable energy resources.
  • Georgia Power is under-serving the growing demand for energy savings programs. Despite increasing its annual energy efficiency goals and proposing one new commercial energy efficiency program, the Company’s demand-side management plan falls well short of energy savings being achieved in other states in our region. SACE recommends adoption of a set of programs that would achieve 70% more energy savings  as compared to the Company’s proposal  and reduces bills for the majority of customers in every rate class.
Commissioner McDonald

Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald has said he’ll call for a doubling of the solar goal in the plan, and he thinks he may even have the votes to pass this change. We hope he does. We’re also hopeful that the Commissioners will ramp up efficiency, which is the most affrodable way to reduce our dependence on highly polluting fossil fuels.

One thing is for sure: on July 11, anyone with an interest in seeing Georgia move to a cleaner energy mix should have their eyes on the PSC! If you’d like to weigh in with your commissioner before then, you can do so using the contact info on the PSC’s website.

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