Society runs on energy, from the fuel in cars to the electricity that powers the appliances in our homes. In Georgia, residents get their electricity from several sources, including Georgia Power. As a power company, it falls under the jurisdiction of the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC), which regulates and manages the rates that Georgia Power can charge customers. Combined with other managerial responsibilities, the PSC has significant input and influence on power companies, capable of steering businesses.
The Integrated Resource Plan
One of the requirements that the PSC places on Georgia Power is submitting an Integrated Resource Plan every three years. The IRP must contain the company’s usage forecast and describe the utility’s program for meeting the forecasted requirements economically and reliably. Additionally, the process requires utilities to develop the most cost-effective resources to meet Georgia’s energy needs. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the IRP Act requires that the Georgia Public Service Commission determine whether a given IRP “…adequately demonstrates the economic, environmental, and other benefits to the state and to customers of the utility…”
In other words, every three years, Georgia Power needs to provide a plan for the future as well as invest in resources that will meet Georgia’s energy needs in a cost-effective manner AND the Georgia PSC needs to ensure that the IRP not only meets the energy requirements the state needs but also meets economic, environmental and other benefits for customers.
What’s in Georgia Power’s IRP
Georgia Power’s report discussed several significant points of interest, including the closure of existing coal-powered plants, increases in natural gas usage, a general transition towards renewables, Plant Vogtle’s timeline, grid reliability and customer programs. Some of the major points of interest included in the final approved plan are:
- Retiring Plant Wansley Units 1 and 2, as well as Plant Scherer Unit 3. Both Units 1 and 2 for Plant Wansley use coal or oil as fuel, while Plant Scherer Unit 3 uses coal.
- Purchasing fracked gas from a subsidiary of Southern Company, which owns Georgia Power. Fracked gas includes methane as its primary component, a significant greenhouse gas.
- Solar investments of up to 2300 MW, approximately the energy used by 32,000 homes in one day. Additionally, Georgia Power plans on adding 1,000 MW of battery storage by 2030; a start but not nearly enough to meet Georgia’s growing energy needs.
- Maintaining energy efficiency programs instead of expanding them and making them more readily available for customers. This will affect low-income or otherwise vulnerable families instead of providing opportunities to make them more energy efficient and climate resilient.
While there certainly are beneficial elements to the Georgia Power IRP, most of those are either limited or long-term solutions, not the immediate answers that Georgians need.
Georgia Power, the Rate Case and GCVEF
Over the years, Georgia Power and its parent Southern Company have been extremely profitable. In the first half of 2022, rising temperatures have resulted in record profits for Southern Company, as customers use more electricity to keep cool. Despite their profits, Georgia Power has asked the Public Service Commission to raise rates, with a projected rate increase of almost $200 per household over the course of a year or $16.29 per month for a family that uses 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month. The Public Service Commission plans to vote in December on whether to allow Georgia Power to increase rates.
The Georgia Conservation Voters Education Fund team, led by Organizing Director Wan Smith, is leading the charge to limit rate increases. Thousands of families across Georgia are still struggling to recover from the COVID pandemic and deal with the effects of rising inflation. Another $200 in utility bills is not something that can be shrugged off or ignored; for many families that live paycheck to paycheck, this means sacrificing elsewhere, like food or other essentials.
As a result, the GCVEF team is launching a new campaign in August to help educate ratepayers across the state about this issue, asking residents to submit comments to the PSC and educating voters about the importance of the PSC race on the ballots this November. The ultimate goal is to ensure Georgia Power is unsuccessful in raising bills in the 2022 rate case. To learn more, go to https://www.gcvoters.org/billsaretoohigh/. To take action or support the efforts of the GCVEF team, go to www.DontRaiseMyBill.com or www.BillsAreTooHigh.com. Alternatively, you can sign our petition to let the PSC know that you oppose the Georgia Power rate hike.
As the energy equity crisis continues to worsen, we need to use all the information we can get to push for a clean and affordable future. The information provided in the IRP allows customers to express their concerns to the PSC and can be valuable in convincing both the PSC and companies to make changes. Only by utilizing all the resources and information can we effectively push for a future Georgia that is clean, equitable and affordable for all residents.