Georgia Power’s 2022 Integrated Resource Plan, which includes solar and storage buildout, coal-fired power plant retirements and customer-centric programs, received approval on July 21 from the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC).
“As Georgia continues to grow and the energy landscape continues to evolve, it’s incredibly important that we keep making the smart investments needed for our customers to have clean, safe, reliable, and affordable energy for decades to come,” said Chris Womack, chairman , president and CEO of Georgia Power. “The approval of our latest Integrated Resource Plan helps us do just that.”
The Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for the Atlanta-headquartered electric utility sets a proactive roadmap for how Georgia Power says it will continue to meet the future energy needs of customers, local communities and the state.
“Working constructively with the Georgia Public Service Commission, we are committed to building the future of energy for our state,” Womack said, “and these investments in our electric grid and energy infrastructure will help ensure that every customer, whether at home or running a business, has the energy they need to thrive.”
As the largest electric subsidiary of Southern Company, Georgia Power serves 2.7 million customers in all but four of the state’s 159 counties and is required to file an IRP with the Georgia PSC every three years to outline how it will provide energy over the next 20 years .
Among several items, the PSC-approved 2022 IRP includes the retirement and decertification of all Georgia Power-controlled coal units by 2028, except for two units at Plant Bowen, which the PSC expects to reevaluate as part of the company’s next regularly scheduled IRP in 2025. To facilitate this fleet transition, the PSC also approved more than 2,000 megawatts (MW) of capacity from future natural gas power purchase agreements.
Under the approved IRP, Georgia Power also may add an additional 2,300 MW of new renewable energy resources over the next three years to support its long-term plan of adding a total of 6,000 MW of renewable resources by 2035. This will roughly double its currently approved renewable portfolio and support the company’s overall transition to cleaner, more cost-effective energy resources for customers, according to Georgia Power.
“Georgia took significant steps in expanding renewable energy development across the state today,” Will Giese, Southeast Regional Director at the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), said on Thursday. “The solar and storage additions to Georgia Power’s [IRP] will help ease the inflation pinch on Georgia families through the procurement of stable, low-cost clean energy.”
Additionally, the approved IRP includes, for the first time, an Income-Qualified Community Solar Pilot that will allow income-qualified customers to participate in the company’s Community Solar program at discounted prices.
The PSC also voted unanimously to create a collaborative Distributed Generation Working Group — to be composed of representatives from utilities, the solar industry and PSC staff — that will develop recommendations for growing the distributed energy market in Georgia.
“It’s extremely heartening to see the commission prioritize growth of distributed renewable energy through the establishment of a working group,” said Tully Blalock, senior vice president of SolAmerican Energy and policy co-chair of the Georgia Solar Industries Association.
“Distributed generation is the clear path forward for Georgia’s economy, workforce and public health,” Blalock added. “We’re excited to see the commission recognize the crucial role of distributed generation in such a tangible way.”
At the same time, Georgia Power’s approved 2022 IRP also includes investments in new distributed generation and helps to ensure that the company has sufficient generation capacity available to meet demand during periods of extreme heat or cold.
To maintain reliability and adjust the increasing amount of intermittent, renewable generation sources coming online, battery energy storage systems (BESS) will continue to be part of the utility’s mix, according to its approved IRP. Georgia Power is currently developing multiple new BESS facilities, including a 65-MW project in Talbot County, Ga., and a 13-MW project with the US Army at Fort Stewart near Savannah.
The company’s IRP also includes the PSC’s approval, with additional review prior to construction, of Georgia Power’s largest BESS project to date, the McGrau Ford Battery facility located in Cherokee County, Ga., which will consist of a 265 MW lithium-ion facility interconnected at the McGrau Ford substation. Once operational, the facility will add more resiliency to the electric grid by allowing Georgia Power to store energy onsite.
Among other items in the approved 2022 IRP are customer-centric programs designed to promote reliability and resiliency, such as the Distributed Energy Resource (DER) Customer Program, which enables participating customers to receive a resiliency service via a company-owned, operated and maintained DER, such as a solar and battery energy storage system.
The approved 2022 IRP also includes a robust Demand Side Management Plan, which helps customers conserve energy and save on their energy bills year-round, according to Georgia Power.
In addition to voting on the IRP, the Georgia PSC also on July 21 considered whether to expand Georgia Power’s monthly netting program by as much as 15 percent.
Georgia PSC Vice Chair Tim Echols — who has been a champion for net metering expansion — brought the measure forward, but it failed in a 3-2 vote. Instead, commissioners voted for a study of the costs and benefits of rooftop solar to be done before they vote in December on a rate increase for Georgia Power. The regulators kept the number of net metering participants at the current level of 5,000 until their vote.
“We applaud some of the commission’s decisions today, and are optimism that the commission will address net metering in the upcoming Georgia Power rate case to bring affordable rooftop solar within reach for tens of thousands of Georgia families,” Allison Kvien, Southeast regulatory director at Vote Solar, said on Thursday. “We thank Vice Chair Echols and Commissioner McDonald for their leadership on this critical issue, and will continue our efforts to make solar affordable and accessible to all Georgians.”
Monthly netting, Kvien said, empowers families to lower their monthly bills and contributes to a cleaner, more resilient energy grid through rooftop solar.
Georgia Power’s program, which was introduced as a pilot in 2020, fairly compensates rooftop solar customers for excess electricity produced by their solar systems, according to Kvien and other supporters, and the program’s popularity and success prompted advocates to urge the PSC to lift the cap and expand solar access across the state.
“While the commission missed an important opportunity to expand the state’s net metering pilot, it’s encouraging to see them create a distributed generation working group,” noted SEIA’s Giese. “In the face of rising energy prices, we will continue to advocate for solutions that expand clean energy access to all Georgia ratepayers.”