Georgia Power’s plan confirms shift from coal to renewables

Georgia Power Co. could close all but one of its coal-fired power plants by 2029 under a new plan filed Monday with the state Public Service Commission.

The Atlanta-based unit of Southern Co. filed its Integrated Resource Plan, a document required every three years that tells regulators how Georgia Power plans to meet electricity demand from its 2.7 million customers over the next 20 years.

“You’ll have less coal generation, you’ll have more renewable energy generation,” Georgia Power CEO Chris Womack said of the plan in a phone interview with The Associated Press. “You will have a reliable and improved network that is more resilient.”

Southern Co. has set a 2050 goal to be a net emitter of gases that cause global warming, primarily carbon dioxide. Environmentalists want the company to move quickly.

Womack declined to say how much the plan might cost or how it would affect rates if approved by the Public Service Commission. He said those details would be retained for Georgia Power’s separate rate plan, which is scheduled for review later this year. However, it is clear that some of the plans, such as transmission upgrades to accommodate more renewable energy, could be costly.

The document says Georgia Power could close all of its coal-fired plants by the end of 2028, except for two gigantic units at the Bowen plant in Cartersville. Most of these moves had already been announced in filings by Southern Co. last year. Georgia Power says it must continue to burn coal through 2035 at both Plant Bowen units to ensure a reliable supply of electricity to the Atlanta metro area.

The company said it was unsure whether to close two units at the Scherer plant near Juliette. Georgia Power says these units, largely owned by others, are economically “challenged” and that it would prepare to shut them down by 2028 while researching options to keep them open.

The company says that in the meantime, it will seek to build or purchase more renewable power in northern Georgia and plan power transmission, generation and other needs of the region to ensure a smooth transmission.

Georgia Power plans to contract with Southern Power, another subsidiary of its parent company, for 2,400 megawatts of natural gas-generated electricity from 2022 to 2028, helping it bridge coal plant shutdowns with a form of energy that still emits carbon, but burns less coal. The company says it would add 2,300 megawatts of renewable energy by 2025 and a total of 6,000 megawatts by 2035.

The company said it will build a battery storage facility in Cherokee County, allowing it to capture electricity and return it to the grid several hours later, which is important for matching peaks in electricity production. renewable energy at peak demand. Womack also said Georgia Power wanted to explore ways to store power for multiple days.

The company, which does not operate any wind generation in Georgia, will seek a pilot program to test super-tall wind turbines in the state, Womack said.

The plan says nothing new about Georgia Power’s plans to clean up coal ash ponds at various locations across the state. The company had planned to limit some of them, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently said that was a misinterpretation of federal rules, despite approval from the Division of Georgia Environmental Protection, and that utilities must dig up all coal ash and store it. in lined landfills where toxic heavy metals cannot seep into groundwater.

The company said it would seek to renew its license to operate Hatch nuclear power station near Baxley. Georgia Power also said it would seek approval to overhaul three hydroelectric generating stations at Lake Sinclair, Lake Burton and the North Highlands Dam on the Chattahoochee River in Columbus.

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