How much solar and wind will Georgia utility regulators allow?

Here’s a question that the Georgia Public Service Commission will be answering tomorrow:

Our followers on social media think the answer should be “as much as possible,” but in our brief on Georgia Power’s long-range plan, SACE argues in favor of a cap of 2,500 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy, likely to be mainly solar and wind. Georgia Power initially proposed just 525 MW in their plan, and other parties have signaled interest in 1,200 MW or 2,000 MW. What’s remarkable about this “debate” is that everyone involved agrees that whatever the number, Georgia Power customers will end up saving money as these projects will cost less than the projected cost of generating power. This approach to developing renewable energy has been led by Commissioner Bubba McDonald.

This debate is happening during the 2016 Integrated Resource Plan proceedings, which is a formal review of Georgia Power’s plans for power generation and energy efficiency. This review takes place every three years, so it is a pretty big deal.

So far it looks like the answer will be “up to 1,600 MW of renewable energy.” That’s the amount that Georgia Power and the commission’s “advocacy staff” agreed to in a settlement that has been recommended to the Commission for approval. The decision is scheduled tomorrow morning, July 28th. Five other prominent issues in the proceeding have also caught our attention.

  • A proposal by Georgia Power to begin spending money on a possible, water intensive nuclear power plant in Stewart County, Georgia along America’s most endangered river, the Chattahoochee as part of the ACF basin, focus of the decades-long Tri-State Water Wars. Commissioner Bubba McDonald has been leading a diverse group of skeptics of Georgia Power’s request.
  • A proposed framework for evaluating the costs and benefits of renewable energy resources. Commissioner Stan Wise has been particularly influential in shaping the scope of this Framework.
  • Whether or not Georgia Power can continue to invest in electric vehicle programs. Commissioner Tim Echols is a champion of these initiatives.
  • Ensuring low cost renewable energy, like wind energy, has a fair chance to help reduce ratepayer costs. Commissioner Chuck Eaton has focused on ensuring cost savings for the utility and its ratepayers.
  • The scope of Georgia Power’s energy efficiency program proposals, budget and methods for evaluating those programs. The Commission’s “advocacy staff” put out strong analysis championing each of these issues.
  • The price at which small solar projects would be compensated for power sold to Georgia Power. The Georgia Solar Energy Industries Association and its allies have been leading this push, which seems to have support from several commissioners.

Want to learn more? Here are some documents that may be of interest.

And here are the entire dockets for the integrated resource plan, and energy efficiency (“DSM”) filings.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s decision and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the news.

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