Georgia regulators choose not to raise rooftop solar cap for now

Rooftop Solar

AP — Georgia regulators turned back an effort to expand by 75,000 the cap on the number of rooftop solar panel installations where Georgia Power pays a high rate for power generated.

The Georgia Public Service Commission voted in a 3-2 majority to examine the benefits and costs of rooftop solar before voting on a Georgia Power rate hike in December. The number of participants will not change from the current level of 5,001.

The Georgia PSC approved Georgia Power’s plan to meet electricity demand from its 2.7 million customers over the next 20 years.

The company has the right to add 2,300 MW renewable energy resources to its portfolio through the approved 2022 IRP. This is in addition to the existing 1,600 MW. The company stated that this would support its plan of adding 6,000 MW to renewable energy resources by 2035. 

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Regulators approved additional investments in Georgia Power’s hydroelectric generating resources, including 45 MW Plant Sinclair, in operation since the 1950s, and 6 MW Plant Burton, in operation since the 1920s.

Regulators also tentatively approved what is expected to be Georgia Power’s largest single battery energy storage system project to date, the McGrau Ford Battery facility. As proposed, the resource would consist of a 265 MW lithium ion facility interconnected with the McGrau Ford substation. Regulators also approved additional 500 MW battery storage.  

In its decision, the regulatory authority also approved a pilot program to distribute 250 MW of energy resource. The DER Customer Program would allow customers to receive a resiliency program via a company-owned DER that is operated and maintained by the company. This could include a solar or battery storage system. Participating customers could also elect to receive a credit in exchange for Georgia Power’s ability to access the DER during a system reliability event. 

The approved IRP also includes an Income-Qualified Community Solar Pilot, which is intended to will allow income-qualified customers to participate in the company’s Community Solar program at discounted prices.

Commissioners approved the retirement of all Georgia Power-controlled coal units and decertification by 2028. The exception was the 3,300 MW Plant Bowen. In the next years, regulators approved 2,400 MW of capacity through natural gas power purchase agreements.

Georgia Power will contract with Southern Power (another unit of its parent Southern Co.) for natural gas-fired capacity between 2022 and 2028, as approved at a July 21, hearing.

Regulators are expected to reevaluate Bowen 1 & 2 as part of the utility’s next regularly scheduled integrated resource plan (IRP) in 2025. The 11Th hour deal to keep Plant Bowen open was initiated by Commissioner Fitz Johnson.

Georgia Power files an annual IRP with Georgia PSC. The commission is scheduled to vote on Georgia Power’s rate plan in December. If approved, a residential customer using 1,000 kWh per month would see their bill rise from $128 now up to $144.29 over three years.

Georgia Power’s Plant Bowen. Credit: Georgia Power

Georgia Power’s coal assets include Plant Bowen, Plant Scherer, and Plant Wansley. Plant Bowen, a commercial operation, was established in 1975 in Bartow County. The four coal-fired units can produce 3,376 MW of electric power.

Plant Scherer started commercial operations in Georgia’s Monroe County in 1982. These four units can produce nearly 3,720 MW of electricity.

Plant Wansley started commercial operation in 1976 in Heard County, Georgia and Carroll County. These two units can produce 1,840 MW of electricity from coal.