Georgia Makes a Big Clean Energy Move

July 17, 2019
Georgia isn’t usually associated with bold clean energy moves, but this week state regulators decided to make some history.

Georgia isn’t usually associated with bold clean energy moves, but this week state regulators decided to make some history.

The Public Service Commission did so in a vote on Georgia Power’s integrated resource plan (IRP), a strategy that outlines what resources the utility plans to use over 20 years. (Dockets 42310 and 42311).

Filed in January, the original IRP called for 1,000 MW of renewables. Later, in a stipulation agreement with commission staff that amount was increased to 1,650 MW. Then, before the commission voted on the plan yesterday, its chairman, Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, called to increase the renewable goal to 2,210 MW. 

The commission approved McDonald’s proposal — the largest increase in renewable energy in Georgia’s history, adding 72% more by 2024, and growing Georgia Power’s renewable portfolio to 5,390 MW.

“Experts expect about 11 GW of solar to be deployed in 2020, and this will represent about 10% of the total in the entire US. That makes it significant,” said Tim Echols, commission vice chairman, in an interview with Microgrid Knowledge.

Not California yet, but…

Echols added:  “States like California and Arizona have already acquired all that their grids can tolerate for now, and those states have moved on to battery arrays to eliminate the duck curve effect on their grid. So California is way ahead of Georgia when it comes to batteries, just as they were with solar. But I think in time we will deploy batteries on a substantial basis — although it may be in 2022 or 2025.”

The plan does require 80 MW of energy storage projects that Georgia Power will seek through competitive bidding. The utility will own and operate the batteries.

“Working with the Georgia PSC, we are positioning Georgia as a leader in the Southeast in battery energy storage, which is critical to growing and maximizing the value of renewable energy for customers as we increase our renewable generation by 72% by 2024,” said Allen Reaves, Georgia Power’s senior vice president and senior production officer, in a statement issued by the utility.

The commission also approved a small ($250,000) pilot project using lithium ion batteries for electric vehicle charging. The pilot will explore how to keep fast charging affordable and insulate the grid from spikes in electricity demand.

No action on Emory microgrid

The commission did not take action on a filing by Emory University, made late in the IRP process, to install a microgrid in conjunction with Georgia Power. Echols said that no motion was made on the Emory microgrid because a clear plan was not presented. The IRP was one of several routes the university has been exploring to develop the microgrid. 

Georgia Power, a Southern Company subsidiary, is partnering with another university in the state, Georgia Tech, on a 1.4 MW microgrid expected to go live in the fall. (Separately, Southern also operates PowerSecure, an unregulated affiliate that builds microgrids across the US.)

In addition to the clean energy requirements, the IRP closes five coal-fired plants in Georgia. “I don’t think we will ever build another coal plan in Georgia,” Echols said.  

Upcoming solicitations

The utility will conduct several IRP competitive solicitations for the resources, including for 160 MW of distributed solar, of which 50 MW will be customer sited DG purchased at avoided cost.

Georgia Power must file an IRP every three years under a state law launched in 1991.

Track news about utility integrated resource plan filings and their influence on clean energy. Subscribe to the free Microgrid Knowledge newsletter. 

About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded RealEnergyWriters.com, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

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