Ga. Power energy plan leaves most coal plants in operation

[private]Georgia Power will leave most of its coal-fired power plants in operation under the utility’s new Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), the 20-year framework for generating electricity from fossil, nuclear, and renewable sources.

Unlike the last IRP filed by the company in 2013, when more than a dozen coal-fired plants were retired, Georgia Power only wants to close one coal unit at Plant Mitchell near Albany, along with two oil-fired turbines at Mitchell and another combustion turbine at Plant Kraft along the coast.

The revised plan would leave in place two coal-fired plants that have come under criticism from environmentalists as being outdated and too expensive to operate efficiently: Plant Hammond near Rome and Plant McIntosh in Effingham County, near Savannah.

Georgia Power said the revised plan, which will be reviewed and voted upon by the Public Service Commission later this year, provides the best mix of generation facilities to meet customer needs.

“As we navigate the changing energy and environmental landscape, striking the right balance between reliability and affordability is crucial to protecting our customers,” said John Pemberton, senior vice president and senior production officer.

In the upcoming hearings, however, environmental and alternative energy groups are expected to focus on the older plants like Hammond and McIntosh.

“I hope the commissioners act to protect our health and our pocketbooks by putting these dirty, outdated coal plants, like Plant Hammond, on a schedule for retirement,” said Colleen Kiernan, director of Sierra Club’s Georgia Chapter.

Georgia Power did leave open the possibility of shutting down Plant McIntosh at some point: “The results of the economic analysis of Plant McIntosh Unit 1 indicate that in a number of future scenarios, the costs exceed the benefits to customers and, therefore, the unit may be a candidate for future retirement. But this is not a decision that must be made today.”

Georgia Power said it was not closing additional coal units because of the “uncertainty” over the future of the EPA’s recently enacted rules for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

Georgia Power is betting that the courts will issue a stay to stop the enforcement of those clean air rules and eventually strike them down.

“As a result of the ongoing litigation regarding numerous fundamental flaws and the pending application to the Supreme Court requesting stay of the rule, there remains a great deal of uncertainty around the rule, and the Company must consider the fact that the rule could be overturned or substantially modified by either the D.C. Circuit or the Supreme Court,” Georgia Power said.

Environmentalists also said Georgia Power should have gone farther to promote the wider use of renewable energy sources in the new IRP.

“There is abundant, clean and cheap wind and solar power readily available to serve Georgia Power customers,” said Anne Blair, clean fuels director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

“Georgia already has 20,000 jobs in the clean energy sector, and the Public Service Commission can continue to support this growth industry by scaling up this successful program,” Blair said

© 2016 by The Georgia Report


Tags: coal-fired plants , EPA , Georgia Power , integrated resource plan , PSC , renewable energy , SACE , Sierra Club