Georgia Dials Up the Sunshine, but Efficiency and Market Reforms Remain in the Shadows
SACE statement on Georgia Power's final Integrated Resource Plan (IRP)
Altanta, Georgia – Today the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) issued its decision on the Georgia Power 2019 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), or the long-term plan (updated every three years) that outlines which energy resources the utility will choose to invest in to supply power to Georgia customers.The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) commends the PSC for its leadership on the pace of solar development. The Commission’s decision to authorize 2,260 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy development over the next three years demonstrates a continuation of the Commission’s leadership in this area by more than doubling the effort initially proposed by Georgia Power.
The Commission-authorized renewable energy development includes 2,000 MW of what will likely be utility-scale solar development, with benefits split equally between large customers and the entire customer base of Georgia Power. The Commission also authorized 210 MW of smaller, distributed solar generation and 50 MW of biomass development.
The Commission also increased the size of Georgia Power’s energy efficiency program, directing a modest 15 percent increase in savings targets for residential and commercial customers. However, neither Georgia Power nor the Commission acted to improve the program offerings, setting aside recommendations to offer improved programs for low-income customers, manufactured homes and industrial facilities.
Unfortunately, the Commission left in place market restrictions that will make it more likely that Georgia Power will invest in unnecessarily large and expensive gas-fired generation contracts by 2022. The Commission declined to adopt an “all source” procurement process that would let all resources compete, the method that has been proven to lead to least-cost power plans in several other states.
Georgia had earned distinction as a leading solar state based on progress from prior IRPs (2013, 2016). Our “Solar in the Southeast” 2018 Annual Report described “an opportunity to reinforce that legacy of leadership with comparable ambition in the 2019 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP)” and the five-member Commission seized that opportunity by specifying 2,210 MW of solar* in the final decision.
Our corresponding “Energy Efficiency in the Southeast” 2018 Annual Report revealed a similar opportunity. Energy efficiency programs at Georgia Power deliver $6 of savings for every $1 of program investment. Yet energy efficiency is not viewed as a priority resource by Georgia Power –– it achieves savings less than half of some of its peer utilities in the Southeast, and the 15 percent increase falls far short of the new programs and doubled scale recommended by public witnesses and numerous parties to the proceeding.
“We had high hopes for this IRP,” said Bryan Jacob, Solar Program Director at SACE. “Chairman McDonald and the rest of the PSC unanimously moved to more than double the amount of solar initially proposed by Georgia Power for its three-year plan. Georgians can now look forward to the benefits of receiving more of their energy from renewable energy resources like solar. McDonald also surprised many by successfully leading a modest increase in Georgia Power’s energy efficiency programs. Yet there were a number of other valuable recommendations that were left in the shadows, and Georgia Power’s resource planning process remains in need of modernization.”
*Note: Other resources, such as wind and hydropower, are also eligible to participate in the forthcoming renewable energy requests for proposal. Over the past several years, solar projects have won all competitive renewable energy solicitations and are likely to do so over the next three years.
About the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Since 1985, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy has worked to promote responsible energy choices to ensure clean, safe and healthy communities throughout the Southeast. Learn more at www.cleanenergy.org.