Environment

Protesters Interrupt Georgia Power Energy Plan Hearings

On Wednesday protesters at the Georgia Public Service Commission interrupted the tail end of a Georgia Power hearing.
On Wednesday protesters at the Georgia Public Service Commission interrupted the tail end of a Georgia Power hearing.
Credit Molly Samuel / WABE
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Protesters interrupted a hearing Wednesday at the Georgia Public Service Commission.

The five commissioners are considering Georgia Power’s Integrated Resource Plan, or IRP, which is where the company lays out how much electricity it thinks it’s going to need and how it plans to provide it for the next 20 years.

While the IRP is a big deal, the hearings are typically pretty dry: Georgia Power presents its case, regulators ask questions, as do people from, for instance, the solar industry, consumer watchdogs, and environmental groups. Pretty much everyone’s in suits.

But as this round of hearings drew to a close, several people from a group called Extinction Rebellion got up, did a skit, and then started chanting “clean energy now.” There was someone dressed as the grim reaper.

The group said it wants action on climate change, for coal plants to close and a switch to renewable energy.

Things devolved as the protesters and the commissioners shouted at each other.

“There’s a thousand megawatts of solar in it, you idiots,” Commissioner Chuck Eaton said, losing patience.

Along with the solar proposal, Georgia Power is also proposing to close one coal-fired power plant, and to shut down an additional coal unit at another plant.

Aside from solar, other big topics Georgia Power was questioned about in the hearings this week included energy efficiency upgrades for low-income households, how much electricity Georgia Power needs on standby during cold winter months and the utility’s plans to clean up coal ash.

Carbon dioxide reduction targets also came up. The City of Atlanta has set a goal for itself to stop using coal, natural gas and nuclear by 2035 and Southern Company, Georgia Power’s parent company, says it wants to achieve “low to no” greenhouse emissions by 2050. Georgia Power said neither of those factored into the IRP.

There’s another round of hearings next month and the five commissioners will issue their final decision in July.

As for the protesters, after about five minutes they were ushered out of the hearing by police. Commissioner Eaton later said he regretted engaging with them.