Every three years Georgia Power is required to inform the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) on how it will provide energy to meet electricity demand of its 2.7 million customers over the next 20 years. On July 21st, the commission approved Georgia Power’s 2022 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) that would shut down all but two of Georgia Power’s coal-fired power plants in the state. But according to reporting from Georgia Public Broadcasting, the five Republican commissioners in a 3-2 vote turned down a proposal from commissioner Tim Echols to expand by 75,000 the cap on the number of customers of Georgia Power who participate in rooftop solar panel installations.
The commissioners requested a study of the costs and benefits of rooftop solar to be done by the time they vote on a rate increase for monthly Georgia Power bills in December, leaving the number of customers who participate in the program to remain at 5,000 until then. They also required Georgia Power to increase its investment in energy efficiency and create a process that could lead to an outside contractor building large batteries to store renewable energy until needed. This was one of the company’s reasons to raise customer bills by 12 percent over the next three years.
Georgia Power in their July 21st press release claims that the approved plan will allow the company to add an additional 2,300 MW of new renewable energy resources over the next three years. This apparently will support the company’s long term plan to add a total of 6,000 MW of additional renewable resources by 2035 and support the company’s overall transition to cleaner, more cost-effective energy resources for customers.
Groups like Sierra Club, a grassroots environmental organization, feel that the approved plan is a step in the right direction but it is not ambitious enough to tackle the imminent danger of the climate crisis. Gina Webber, Interim Director of the Sierra Club Georgia Chapter stated in a press release: “The five Commissioners on the PSC are elected to represent the interests of Georgians, but they made it abundantly clear that they wanted zero input from their constituents when they refused public comments during the IRP hearings. It’s shameful that they’re willing to put the interests of dirty polluters before Georgia families, small businesses, and communities.”
There is also concern from both Sierra Club and the public interest group Georgia Watch about the cost the 2.7 million consumers who rely on Georgia Power will have to pay. Liz Coyle, executive director of Georgia Watch, believes the plan approval was better than anticipated but could still potentially increase the rate consumers could spend on their monthly power bills. In response to the approval Coyle stated: “People cannot afford the kind of increase on their power bills that could happen in January. It could be another $16 per month. And if people are already living paycheck to paycheck, that $16 is absolutely unaffordable.”
However, Georgia Power claimed on June 24th that the average residential customer who uses 1,000 kilowatt hours per month would see an increase of $14.32 per month on their bill in 2023. Then another increase of $1.35 per month in 2024 and another $0.62 per month in 2025, for a total increase of $16.29 over the three-year period instead of an immediate increase to that amount in 2023. Regardless, the Georgia Public Service Commission is scheduled to vote on the rate plan in December.