Georgia Power Plans To Close A Coal Plant, Add Renewables

Georgia Power is continuing work on the two new nuclear units at Plant Vogtle, which is near Augusta.

David Goldman / Associated Press

Georgia Power plans to add more renewable energy to its portfolio and to close a coal plant. On Wednesday, the utility released its 20-year integrated resource plan, where it forecasts future electricity demand, and explains how it intends to supply power to millions of Georgians.

The utility says it wants to close coal-fired Plant Hammond, which is near Rome. It also wants to close one coal unit at Plant McIntosh, near the coast, though that would not mean closing that entire plant.

Georgia Power proposes removing two dams on the Chattahoochee River near Columbus, and a third dam on a creek in the northeast corner of the state. Even combined, the three dams don’t generate much power, according to the utility, and they aren’t in use right now anyway.

Georgia Power says it intends to add 1,000 megawatts of renewable power over the next few years, which would bring its entire renewable portfolio to about four gigawatts.

“A thousand megawatts is welcome, but we think there is room to do more” said Southern Environmental Law Center attorney Kurt Ebersbach. “In the last two IRPs you’ve had our commission exercising leadership and substantially improving upon the company’s original proposal and we would hope that that would happen here too.”

In its last IRP, in 2016, Georgia Power agreed to add 1,600 megawatts of renewable energy. In the previous one, in 2013, the utility agreed to 525 megawatts.

Georgia Power is also suggesting a program to help lower income households afford energy efficiency upgrades. Saving energy is an easy way to lower electricity bills, but it can be expensive to make efficiency upgrades.

“We’ve had a number of these programs over the years. We don’t always see the same participation across all segments of our customers. So we are focusing on that segment,” said Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft.

But the company could do more, Ebersbach said.

“The program is a good idea. It just needs to be bigger and perhaps have some overhead trimmed,” he said.

Georgia Power is continuing work on the two new nuclear units at Plant Vogtle, which is near Augusta. The company recently agreed to pay more to state regulators who are overseeing the project, to help them expand capacity to monitor it. At the same time, Georgia Power agreed with the regulators’ request to delay by six months its update on construction progress and costs.

The integrated resource plan now goes to Georgia Public Service Commission for approval.