Split PSC Approves New Nuclear Study, Some New Solar, Wind in Georgia (UPDATE 1)
With additional reporting by Matthew Charles Cardinale.
(APN) ATLANTA — On Thursday, July 28, 2016, the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) approved a revised Georgia Power Company Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for 2016. The IRP is a twenty year plan that Georgia Power updates every three years.
The Plan includes at least an additional 1,200 Megawatts (MW) of renewable energy–including solar, wind, and biomass–by 2021, up to 1,600 MW if additional projects pan out, John Kraft, a spokesperson for Georgia Power, explained in an interview with Atlanta Progressive News.
The PSC also approved a controversial, new 99 million dollar study that was proposed by Georgia Power, to explore the possibility of new nuclear reactors on the Chattahoochee River in Stewart County, Georgia.
RENEWABLES TO INCREASE TO TEN OR ELEVEN PERCENT BY 2021
The PSC approved 1,200 additional MW of renewable energy as part of its “Renewable Energy Development Initiative” (REDI), although during the July 28 meeting, Commissioner McDonald also made a motion to increase this to 1,700 megawatts (MW).
McDonald’s motion failed by a vote of two to three, with McDonald and Echols voting for more renewable energy. Eaton, Everett, and Wise voted against.
Still, the 1,200 MW has an improvement over what Georgia Power originally proposed. Pressure from environmental groups and others convinced Georgia Power to increase the amount of additional renewable energy from only 525 MW to 1,200 MW.
Georgia Power’s statewide portfolio has been slowly, but steadily evolving to include more and more renewable energy over the last ten or so years, even as the company has clung to nuclear power.
Currently, Georgia Power has 866 MW of renewable energy–including wind, solar, and biomass–currently online, with more coming online as each IRP is implemented, Kraft told APN. This number does not include Hydroelectric power.
Of this current renewable energy, 250 MW are from wind; 353 MW are from solar; and 263 are from biomass.
“It’s a constantly evolving number,” Kraft noted.
If the current IRP is fully implemented, Georgia Power’s renewable statewide energy portfolio will reach six or seven percent by 2021, not including Hydroelectric. This number is ten to eleven percent when Hydroelectric is included.
Bill Edge, spokesman for the Georgia Public Service Commission, confirmed these proportions.
Georgia Power had a small amount of solar energy prior to 2011. Then in 2011, the PSC adopted their first Large-scale Solar Program (LSS), which brought 50 MW of solar into the plan.
Then in 2012, Georgia Power proposed what it called the Advanced Solar Initiative, to add another 210 MW, which the PSC approved.
With the IRP that was up for consideration in 2013, Georgia Power and the PSC agreed to an additional 525 MW of solar power – a victory that APN noted was the result of an unusual coalition of environmentalists and Tea Party Patriots in Georgia.
In addition, Georgia Power owns approximately 150 MW of solar installations at military bases in Georgia.
Georgia Power currently has under contract nearly 1,000 MW–or one Gigawatt–of solar energy; while its “currently approved plans and programs” exceed one Gigawatt.
The IRP that was just approved includes at least another 1,200 MW of renewable energy, although this time it is not limited to solar, and can also include wind and biomass.
CONTROVERSIAL NUCLEAR STUDY APPROVED
As states across the U.S., and even nations around the world, are turning against nuclear power, only in the U.S. South are we seeing a last gasp for the dangerous, controversial power source.
The PSC approved the nuclear study in a vote of four to one, with Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald (District 4) the lone dissenting vote.
Commissioners Doug Everett (District 1), Tim Echols (District 2), Chuck Eaton (District 3), and Stan Wise (District 5) voted for the 99 million dollar study.
Georgia Power wanted 175 million and Commissioner Everett was willing to give that amount of ratepayer money to them, noting “I’m an extreme nuclear fan.”
However, Commissioner McDonald said he represents 2.5 million Georgia consumers and does not think ratepayers should pay for this study, which may not pan out.
“If they are so positive about the process of another nuclear program in 2025 and beyond, let their investors make the first investment,” McDonald said.
McDonald expressed concerns about more water coming out of the Chattahoochee River, especially with the ongoing water wars between Georgia, Alabama, and Florida.
Also of concern are whether the area is geologically appropriate for a nuclear site; and the unresolved issue of the growing pile of nuclear waste.
“We don’t have a plan to take care of the 70 tons of nuclear waste we have today,” McDonald said.
“Georgia ratepayers have already invested 1.3 billion dollars for the federal government to dispose of the nuclear waste, and they have not done this,” McDonald said.
However, the U.S. Department of Energy is allowing other countries to dump their nuclear waste at the Savannah River Site across the river from Plant Vogtle.
A motion was made to approve the 2016 IRP as amended, and it passed four to one with McDonald voting no.
McDonald’s no vote was because he does not support ratepayers funding the future nuclear study in Stewart County, and because he wanted more solar energy in the Plan.
“I lost and the State lost in my opinion,” McDonald said.
“The timing is right, interest rates are favorable for long-term financing, technology continues to be low, and solar would provide jobs,” McDonald said.
Georgia Power still clings to nuclear, in part because of the huge profits from a guaranteed 10.95 percent rate of return on billions of dollars for Georgia Power; the statewide Construction Work in Progress (CWIP) nuclear tariff on Georgia Power bills; a 8.5 billion dollar federal loan guarantee; and a cap on liability.
Nuclear power cannot compete in a free market; it has to be subsided by the federal government, taxpayers, and ratepayers.
This type of corporate socialism makes “Georgia Power the nation’s biggest welfare queen,” Jim Clarkson, with Resource Supply Management, stated in a brief filed with the PSC.
COAL DECERTIFICATION; ASH PONDS, WIND
The Commission approved the decertification of Plant Mitchell Units 3, 4A, and 4B; Plant Kraft Unit 1 CT; and Intercession City CT.
In addition, the Commission approved the closure of ash ponds and a high wind study.
Commissioners Wise and Eaton are up for reelection in 2018.
UPDATE 1 and CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that the IRP approved in 2016 was to cover 2018 to 2021. In fact, the IRP is a twenty year forward-looking plan that is updated every three years.
Tim Echols is up for reelection in 2016. There is a Libertarian challenger but no Democrat. Georgia Power had backpeddled from the new nuclear study but the Commissioners went out of their way to pander to the rich monopoly that has been posting record profits since undertaking Vogtle 3 & 4 construction. See: http://www.nonukesyall.org/Vogtle.html