Georgia Power’s energy plan, coal ash, Plant Vogtle due for discussion in 2022
By David Pendered
Georgia Power’s three-year plan to meet the state’s energy needs is due to be filed with state regulators by Jan. 31 and marks the start of a yearlong discussion of a wide array of energy topics.
Georgia Power is to submit its Integrated Resources Plan (IRP) with the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) by Jan. 31. The PSC may rule on the IRP in July based on past performance.
In coming months Georgians are likely to debate issues including the construction and potential start this year of nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle, possible litigation in the Georgia Supreme Court over whether shareholders or consumers should pay significant costs for storing coal ash, proposals pending in the Georgia Legislature regarding coal ash storage and proposed federal regulations on coal ash and emissions from power plants’ smokestacks and wastewater that could affect affairs pending before the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
The Biden administration’s emerging attention to environmental issues has been awaited since the Senate confirmed Michael Regan as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator in March 2021. Regan oversaw a multi-billion dollar coal ash cleanup by Duke Energy when Regan served as North Carolina’s top environmental officer.
Georgia Power’s filing of the mandatory IRP sets up a discussion of energy supplies that often involves the power company, state utility regulators, the public and, typically, entities that use lots of power.
MARTA is among the users that routinely submit positions on Georgia Power’s energy plans. Individual industrial users and their associations tend to file responses, as do advocates of residential users and special interest groups.
The IRP review can conclude fairly quickly. The PSC finalized Georgia Power’s most recent IRP on July 16, 2019. The commission added a number of stipulations that went beyond Georgia Power’s initial filing. In a section comprised mainly of solar, the PSC required 2000 MW, up from 1500 MW. To promote electric vehicles, the PSC required Georgia Power to spend up to $250,000 to establish a pilot program related to fast-charging technology.
The closure of four coal-fired power plants remains on the IRP schedule. On Nov. 29, 2021, Georgia Power filed papers with the PSC in confirming closure plans for two units at Plant Wansley, west of Atlanta in Carroll County, and two units at Plant Bowen, southwest of Cartersville.
The Plant Vogtle issue continues to roil regulators and watchdogs. Among pending issues is the PSC’s consideration of $576 million in after-tax payments by Georgia Power in the first three quarters of 2021. Georgia Power’s parent, Southern Co., reported the company may ask the PSC to “evaluate those expenditures for rate recovery” from ratepayers, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The first of two nuclear reactors are to start producing power as early as December, according to a Dec. 1, 2021 report to the PSC by two independent monitors.
The Georgia Supreme Court is deciding whether to accept a case submitted by the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club seeks to appeal a lower court’s ruling that the PSC was correct in determining that Georgia Power can pass all the costs of coal ash cleanup to ratepayers. The cost is approaching $9 billion.
Georgia submitted a response on Dec. 22, 2021, that rejects the Sierra Club’s position and includes a section titled: “This is not a case of ‘great concern, gravity or importance to the public.’”
At the state Capitol, Georgia lawmakers have talked at length about strengthening regulations for coal ash disposal. Two of the major proposals are one by GOP lawmakers, House Bill 647, and one by Democrats, Senate Bill 230.
The EPA on Jan. 11 announced its proposal to tighten regulations on the disposal of coal ash. The planned regulations could affect the state’s existing authorizations to close and store coal ash. The EPA intends to ensure that disposal plans in states allowed to authorize disposal plans comply with federal regulations. A public comment period is open through Feb. 23. More information is available from the EPA.
The board that oversees Georgia’s DNR is slated to meet Friday on St. Simons Island and could discuss the proposed federal regulations.
Thanks for the overview piece on Georgia Power’s issues that are before the GA legislature, PSC, and Courts. Have you seen the new analysis of the Vogtle cost overruns (estimate is now over $30 billion to bring on-line and at least six years delayed with more cost increases and delays anticipated). The independent and well-respected Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis conducted the study). It’s worth the read and please provide the Saporta Report readers with the important info in this report. The PSC will ultimately decide what costs will or won’t be passed on the GA electric consumers. As a homeowner in St. Mary’s, we don’t want to be forced to pay for Georgia Power’s mistakes and malfeasance.Report