ATLANTA – Georgia Power usually asks state energy regulators every three years to approve the utility’s latest plan outlining the mix of energy sources it intends to rely on for power generation during the next two decades.
But what the Atlanta-based utility describes as Georgia’s “extraordinary” economic growth is prompting Georgia Power to seek additional generating capacity less than a year and a half after the state Public Service Commission (PSC) approved its last Integrated Resource Plan (IRP).
The company submitted an IRP update to the PSC Friday proposing additional capacity to handle current projections reflecting energy growth of about 6,600 megawatts of electricity, up from about 400 megawatts Georgia Power forecasted in January of last year. A megawatt is enough electricity to power about 750 homes.
The update calls for expanding the use of renewable energy and battery storage, both sources of power generation long supported by environmental advocates. But it also proposes the construction of new gas turbines at Georgia Power’s Plant Yates in Coweta County, to the dismay of environmentalist critics.
“Georgia has continued to experience rapid economic growth since the filing of our IRP in early 2022,” said Kim Greene, Georgia Power’s chairman, president, and CEO. “Many businesses coming to the state are bringing large electrical demands at both a record scale and velocity.
“This IRP update outlines how Georgia Power can best continue supporting that historic growth while continuing to provide our customers with the clean, safe, reliable, and affordable energy they expect and deserve.”
Specifically, the IRP update includes:
- construction of new solar resources to be co-located with battery energy storage systems.
- expansion of Georgia Power’s battery energy storage capacity.
- construction of three new gas combustion turbines at Plant Yates near Newnan.
- certification of a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Mississippi Power, like Georgia Power, a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Co.
- certification of a PPA with Florida-based Santa Rosa Energy Center LLC for power from an existing natural gas-fired power plant.
- the addition of new and expanded distributed energy resources, such as rooftop solar, and demand response programs, in which customers voluntarily agree to reduce energy use during periods of peak demand.
- Potential acquisition of an additional ownership interest in an “existing generation asset” within the Southern Co. footprint. Negotiations are currently ongoing, according to the Oct. 27 filing.
In a news release, Georgia Power officials said the IRP update does not change the utility’s commitment to renewable energy. The utility plans to add 10,000 megawatts of new renewable resources by 2035 under the new IRP, up from the 6,000 megawatts projected in the 2022 IRP.
In keeping with last year’s IRP, Georgia Power is pursuing requests for proposals (RFPs) for both distributed generation renewable power projects and larger utility-scale projects.
The company also is working to develop, own, and operate a 265-megawatt battery storage project and plans to seek final approval from the PSC by the end of next year. Commercial operation is expected by the end of 2026.
But a lawyer for the Atlanta-based Southern Environmental Law Center said Friday the IRP update gives little more than lip service to renewable power.
Jennifer Whitfield, a senior attorney with the group, criticized the Plant Yates gas turbine project as “walking back the incremental steps” Georgia Power has taken to transition to clean energy.
“This is a bait-and-switch for companies bringing green and renewable manufacturing jobs to our state, and a financial risk to families already saddled with some of the highest power bills in the country,” she said.
Whitfield cited multiple rate increases the PSC has granted Georgia Power during the last year, including a fossil fuels cost recovery request that hiked average residential customer bills by nearly $16 per month.
“Pushing for more oil and gas is completely at odds with Georgia Power’s parent company, Southern Co.’s, goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050,” she said. “Georgia can and should instead meet our energy needs and customer demands by expanding clean, affordable, renewable options like solar power, battery storage, and energy savings programs.”
Georgia Power responded to such arguments in its IRP update by asserting that solar energy and battery storage alone aren’t enough.
“While energy storage resources continue to grow as a percentage of Georgia Power’s portfolio and to support renewable integration, the company cannot overly rely on short-duration storage to fully meet its capacity needs,” the utility wrote. “To serve customer load, the company needs dispatchable resources that are not inherently limited.”
This story available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, an initiative of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.