What is the IRP? It’s the acronym for Georgia Power’s Integrated Resource Plan. This plan determines how much of our state’s electricity will be generated from carbon-free renewable technologies (solar, hydro, wind, nuclear) and how much will be generated from carbon-emitting fossil fuel technologies (coal and natural gas).  

It is scientific consensus that human-caused carbon (CO2) emissions are causing climate change. As a lover of nature and Mother Earth, I am deeply concerned about the effects of climate change. I learned about the Integrated Resource Plan seven years ago while working for the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. There I learned what an outsized impact our electric generation technologies have on worldwide carbon emissions. At the same time, I learned about the IRP and the Georgia Public Service Commission, which approves the IRP.  Since then I have observed how few of our Georgia citizens are aware of this publicly elected commission and what it does.

Why should UUs care about the IRP? Because Georgia Power is formulating its new plan this spring, and we have an opportunity to press our elected officials for more renewable generation than Georgia Power is proposing. What can you do? Please contact your public service commissioner every month through June and tell them you want Georgia Power to do more to make our state carbon-free and to relieve the energy expense burden on low-income customers. Read on for details.

Georgia Power Company and the Georgia Public Service Commission

Georgia Power (GPC) is Georgia’s largest electric utility and is investor-owned (publicly traded). The company owns and operates two types of generating plants: 

  • Fossil-fuel-powered: coal-fired, gas-fired, oil-fired
  • Renewable-powered: hydroelectric (dams), solar farms, and nuclear plants

There is currently no wind generation in Georgia. Some of you may get your power from an electric co-op or city rather than Georgia Power. If so, their operations are not covered by the IRP.   

Georgia Power is regulated by Georgia’s Public Service Commission (PSC). The Georgia PSC is comprised of five elected officials who represent five geographical districts. The commission has the final say on electric rates (your power bill) and on the types of generation that Georgia Power will build and maintain to meet Georgia’s current and projected electric demand. Three commissioners, all Republicans, serve power customers in metro Atlanta counties. Their contact info is below.

The Integrated Resource Plan (IRP)

Georgia Power is required by law to submit a new IRP every three years. The plan looks ahead for 20 years from the date of filing. The 2022 proposed IRP was filed in January with the PSC and assigned Docket No. 44160. Over the next few months, the commission will take comments on the proposed plan.  The PSC will then approve the final IRP, with changes, in July. To read the text of the proposed IRP, see “Resources” below.

Issues and Action

The following table identifies some important IRP program elements that we, as Georgia Power customers, can take up with our Public Service Commissioner.  Doing more with these elements than GPC has proposed will get us closer to carbon-free electric generation, provide greater incentive for power customers to install roof-top solar, and reduce the energy costs for low-income families. 

IRP Program ElementGeorgia Power 2022 Proposed IRPAsk your commissioner to …
Utility-scale solar generationExpand from 2200 MW (in 2020) to 10,700 MW by 2035. Install 1000 MW of battery storage by 2030. Complete the 10,700 MW earlier, by 2028.  Double the storage battery capacity to 2000 MW.  
Net metering for homes with rooftop solarKeep the current participation cap of 5000 customers.  This cap was filled in 2021.Remove the cap.  South Carolina, with no participation cap, has over 20,000 home solar installations*.
Home Energy Efficiency Assistance ProgramEnroll 1400 homes statewide.  This is approximately 0.06 % of residential customers, whereas Georgia’s poverty level is approximately 13%.Raise the enrollment target to 3000 homes statewide.

* Source: Solar Power World, July 1, 2021

Utility-scale solar generation refers generally to solar farms installed by Georgia Power. In 2020, generation from these farms made up only 3% of all the power used by Georgians. The current proposal would raise solar to approximately 12% of all generation in 2035 (assumes five-fold growth in utility-scale solar capacity, annual demand growth of 0.7%). Still not a lot considering 2035 is 12 years away.

Net metering is a program for homes that have installed roof-top solar panels. At certain times, the solar panels will generate more power than is being used by the home (refrigerator, lights, AC, etc.). The unused power flows to Georgia Power and is used by other homes. With net metering, Georgia Power tracks the unused power and pays the solar homeowner for it. Expanding net metering participation eligibility provides an incentive for more homeowners to install solar panels.

Home Energy Efficiency Assistance Program (HEEAP) is an existing program that Georgia Power offers to low-income customers. It reduces energy usage and their power bills. Georgia has one of the highest energy burdens – the percentage of household income spent on energy – in the U.S. This is a climate justice issue. 

So now you’re an IRP expert! We have an opportunity from now through June to tell our elected Public Service Commissioners that we want Georgia Power to do better to relieve climate change and to help our low-income citizens. Do it once a month from now through June – for Mother Earth. Please send those emails and make those calls! In your call or email, be sure to reference 2022 Integrated Resource Plan, Docket ID 44160.

RESOURCES:

Public Service Commission website: psc.ga.gov

Metro Atlanta Public Service commissioners:

To call your commissioner:

  • 404-656-4501, then follow prompts

To make a written public comment, do it at least 24 hours before a hearing starts (reference Docket No. 44160):

Link to Integrated Resource Plan documents:

IRP Hearing Dates:

  • April 4 – 6: Georgia Power Company testimony
  • May 24 – 27: Intervenor testimony
  • June 21 – 22:  Georgia Power Company rebuttal

 

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