Unboxing Georgia Power’s 2022 Integrated Resource Plan

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Renewable Energy

 

Every three years, Georgia Power updates its Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), determining how they will invest funds from their 2.7 million customers over the following two decades. This plan largely determines which energy sources and programs are available to Georgians and at what environmental and financial cost. Georgia Power is our state’s largest utility, and the decisions that will be finalized in a few short months will have far-reaching impacts on Georgia’s energy future. It is crucial that the plan reflects residents’ needs and priorities within the context of our evolving marketplace and warming climate.

 

Georgia Power filed the 2022 IRP with the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) on January 31. Stakeholders and the public now have a valuable opportunity to advocate for clean energy improvements before the PSC votes on the plan this July. So, what are we working with? Southface Institute Advocacy Program Director Katie Southworth unboxes the plan:

 

  • Georgia Power should rise to the opportunity to increase energy savings. Utilities can either sell you a kilowatt-hour (kWh) of energy directly or help you save that kWh through energy efficiency improvements (i.e., demand-side management). With the low cost of increasing energy efficiency and wide-ranging benefits to customers and the planet, it would be a smart move for Georgia Power to prioritize energy savings over outright energy sales. The national average for energy savings as a percentage of energy sales is 0.72%. While Georgia Power achieves more savings than other utilities in the state, they reached just 0.25% energy savings relative to energy sales in 2021. Fortunately, they have the opportunity now to help bridge the gap. The final IRP should incorporate higher energy savings targets and increased investments in energy efficiency to achieve those targets if Georgians seek to meet or exceed the national average in the next few years.
  • Reducing the energy burden and entrenched inequities needs to be a top priority. More than 1.2 million Georgians pay 6% or more of their household income for electricity, and due to many different factors, utility bills across the state are the eighth highest in America. Communities of color and those with lower incomes in Georgia are more likely to live in older, less efficient homes because of things like housing discrimination and disinvestment, and these residents have the highest energy burden to show for it. For many families, every extra dollar spent keeping the lights on is one less they can spend on doctor’s visits, meals, and other necessities. Since 45% of Georgia Power’s customers make less than $40,000 a year, the 2022 IRP can substantially benefit communities across the state by dedicating more resources for these low-cost measures that have great potential to reduce overall energy consumption and alleviate disproportionately high energy burdens.
  • Georgia Power can make it easier for communities to achieve their clean energy goals. Over the past few years, more and more Georgia communities have committed to ambitious clean energy goals, including the cities of Atlanta, Athens, Decatur, and Savannah. Georgia’s largest utility has a lot of power to facilitate this community-driven transition to a more resilient, sustainable future. It is important for community leaders and residents to advocate and ensure their local energy goals are fully considered and incorporated into Georgia Power’s plan. 
  • Newer clean energy resources should be allowed to compete on a level playing field. Concerns about climate change and the need for flexible, reliable energy resources are warranted, but natural gas is not the solution Georgia needs. Georgia needs demand-side clean energy resources that equip customers to more effectively manage their own energy consumption. Energy efficiency, demand response, and residential solar + energy storage provide unique value and are cheaper than ever to implement. We must allow these clean energy resources to compete with more expensive, dirty fossil fuel generation and fully consider them for the value they can provide to the Georgia Power system. The IRP is at risk of prioritizing incumbent market participant resources over non-incumbent resources. Georgia Power must maintain a fair market that weighs the merits and challenges of each.
  • Sharing is caring! Georgia Power should fully leverage the regional electricity grid. When Winter Storm Uri precipitated a catastrophic blackout in Texas last year that resulted in extensive property damage, financial losses, and many deaths, one of the contributing factors was the state’s isolation from the grid and energy resources of the surrounding states. Georgia Power is more connected to other states in the Southeast, which gives us more opportunities for reserve sharing with our neighbors and other measures to help safeguard against power outages related to weather extremes. The IRP should embrace those opportunities for greater resilience.
  • Advocating for the future of clean energy in Georgia is more important than ever. Southface and many other clean energy advocates have engaged the public and intervened in the past several cycles of the IRP, and these collaborative efforts have paid off! Almost all the utility-scale solar in Georgia today can be traced to successful engagement in the IRP process. According to Senior Environmental Engineer Rachel Greiner, “Georgia Power anticipates having approximately 4,200 MW of utility-scale solar online by 2025.” As weather extremes become more severe and frequent in response to our rapidly warming climate, it is an act of preparedness and self-preservation for Georgians to get involved in shaping our energy future.

 

On March 9, Southface, Vote Solar, and Partnership for Southern Equity are hosting the culmination of our virtual IRP roundtable and training series: Energy Equity and 2022 IRP Kick-Off. Register now and learn how you can engage and have a powerful positive impact on our communities and planet.

 

For media inquiries, please contact communications@southface.org.

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