Declining consumer demand and energy efficiency programs are contributing to the reduced need for generation, company officials told reporters. As part of the plan, the giant utility is asking the commission for permission to enhance its seven existing conservation programs and launch an eighth, which would target commercial customers.
The company estimates it would need 2,000 megawatts of additional capacity if it weren’t for the conservation programs already in place.
The plan also formally seeks permission to shut down 16 aging generating units across the state that were listed in an announcement earlier this month. Company executives concluded that the expense of complying with new federal environmental regulations would be too costly during the 20-years of the plan.
“It doesn’t just look at what is the cheapest (type of plant) to run. It also looks at the long-term costs of operation,” said Greg Roberts, Georgia Power’s vice president of pricing and planning.
Some of the generating capacity of the shuttered plants will be replaced by two nuclear reactors under construction at Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro, and part will come from a plan to contract with companies that produce power from solar and natural gas.
As a regulated monopoly, Georgia Power must receive permission from the Public Service Commission before it can change its mix of power plants or even convert them from one type of coal to another.
Before the commission votes on the plan in July, the General Assembly will likely have the chance to consider two separate bills to alter the law giving the utility its regional monopoly. One bill would be the reintroduction of legislation that died last year which would allow property owners to lease roof space to firms who would generate solar electricity for sale to the property owner.
The other likely bill would allow the newly formed Georgia Solar Utilities Inc. to compete with Georgia Power for customers during daylight periods.
Georgia Power hasn’t commented on either bill, but it did fight last year’s version along with most of the other 94 electric utilities that operate in the state.