The state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) approved Georgia Power’s new long-term energy plan, which includes commitments for more solar and wind power over the next several years, steps to protect consumers from costly upgrades at dirty and uneconomic coal plants, and support for new energy efficiency programs to serve low-income customers.
Georgia Power’s 2016 Integrated Resource Plan includes up to 1,600 megawatts of solar and other renewables -- a significant increase from what was initially proposed by the utility earlier this year. The final plan also minimizes spending at the Hammond and McIntosh coal plants and dedicates funding for a low-income multifamily housing energy efficiency program.
“We’re very pleased that the PSC and Georgia Power recognize that clean, renewable energy should play a more significant role in our state’s energy future,” said Ted Terry, director of the Sierra Club’s Georgia Chapter. “Georgia has recently been ranked the top state for the creation of jobs in the clean energy sector, largely due to our fast-growing solar industry. So this increased commitment to renewables is not only a smart move for our environment, but also for our local economy.”
Erin Glynn, an organizer for the Sierra Club’s Georgia Chapter, added, “We appreciate the leadership of Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald and Commissioner Tim Echols for their support to increase the amount of renewable energy even further in this plan. We look forward to continuing to work with the entire commission to advance policy decisions that will move the state toward a smart energy economy.”
Sierra Club and its partners worked for several months to build support for increased use of renewable energy technologies in the new energy plan, making the case that solar and wind are not only cleaner, but cheaper, than fossil fuels. In fact, the energy cost at Plant Hammond is $94 a megawatt hour, while utility scale solar produced in Georgia costs about $60 a megawatt hour. Wind energy from the Midwest costs even less, about $30 a megawatt hour.
Sierra Club also presented testimony to the PSC supporting a reasonable phase-out of the Hammond and McIntosh coal plants over the next several years. The final IRP caps the amount the money Georgia Power can spend on maintaining these plants and also establishes a process for the utility to work with the PSC staff to address retiring them. The new process will start within the next six months and will conclude in early 2018.
“We’re glad to see that Georgia Power won’t continue to sink more of its customers’ hard-earned money into propping up old, inefficient coal plants like Hammond and McIntosh, and will instead build on the momentum for Georgia’s growing clean energy economy,” said Ian Karra, organizing representative for the Beyond Coal campaign in Georgia. “Meanwhile, we will continue to advocate that workers and local communities have a say in the responsible transition away from coal.”
Over the last several months, Sierra Club’s Georgia Chapter hosted three town halls throughout the state to help residents learn more about Georgia Power’s proposed plan and to call for more clean, renewable energy for the Peach State.
And in May, Sierra Club delivered 1,049 comments collected via a petition to the PSC, to thank commissioners for their efforts in carefully planning for Georgia’s future energy needs. The comments also requested the commissioners phase-out Georgia Power’s oldest and most expensive coal plants over time and expand the utility’s proposed renewable energy program to include more wind and solar resources.