Story at a glance
- The company’s plan includes shuttering 12 coal units it operates that produce more than 3,500 megawatts (MW) of power starting this year through 2028.
- Two remaining coal units would be closed in 2035.
- Environmental groups backed the utility’s transition away from coal power, noting it’s a “step in the right direction,” but they emphasized that more needs to be done to curb the harmful effects of the climate crisis.
The largest electric utility company in Georgia plans to shift away from coal power and ramp up the use of renewables and natural gas as part of its transition to cleaner and more economical sources of energy.
In a filing with the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) this week, Georgia Power revealed proposed plans to shut down its remaining coal-fired power plants by no later than 2035, as coal-fired generation continues to be less economically viable, and double its renewable and solar energy generation.
The company’s plan includes shuttering 12 coal units it operates that produce more than 3,500 megawatts (MW) of power starting this year through 2028. Two remaining coal units at Plant Bowen in Georgia’s Bartow County would remain operational until 2035 to ensure a reliable supply of electricity to the utilities 2.7 million customers.
“We know that to continue to meet the changing needs of our customers we must prepare now to build the electric system and energy infrastructure of the future,” Chris Womack, president and CEO of Georgia Power, said in a release.
“It demonstrates our commitment to making smart investments today, so that our customers can continue to have clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy for decades to come,” Womack added.
To make up for the loss of coal power, Georgia Power plans to contract with a subsidiary of its parent company, Southern Company, to secure more than 2,300 MW of natural gas-generated electricity from 2022-2028, as well as add 2,300 MW of renewable energy by 2025 and up to 6,000 MW of renewables by 2035. While natural gas emits harmful carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when it’s burned, it results in fewer emissions than burning coal and is less expensive.
Georgia Power has also requested approval to own and operate a 1,000 MW energy storage facility to reliably power homes with solar power during peak hours when the sun isn’t out.
Environmental groups backed the utility’s transition away from coal power, noting it’s a “step in the right direction,” but emphasized that more needs to be done to curb the harmful effects of the climate crisis.
“Amid the backdrop of a global climate crisis, the solution is clear. Georgia’s electric system and energy infrastructure must be transformed to rely on renewable power like solar and battery storage rather than replacing one fossil fuel with another,” Charline Whyte, a senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign in Georgia, said in a statement to Changing America.
“Coal plant retirements are still too far off and Georgia Power wants to procure a massive amount of fracked gas. Transitioning to clean energy would save customers money immediately, invest in our local economy, and provide good jobs here in Georgia,” Whyte said.
The PSC will carry out hearings on Georgia Power’s plan over the next several months and a vote on the matter will take place later this year.
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