As climate warms, Georgia Power seeks to add more fossil fuels

Georgia Power requests huge increase in power generating capacity to meet new demand forecast
Georgia Power’s Plant McDonough is seen on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2021. (Daniel Varnado/For the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Georgia Power’s Plant McDonough is seen on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2021. (Daniel Varnado/For the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Georgia Power says it needs significantly more capacity to generate electricity to meet customer needs in the years ahead than previously projected. And in a filing Friday with state regulators, the utility said it wants to burn more climate-warming fossil fuels to bridge most of that gap.

In its filing with the Public Service Commission (PSC), Georgia Power asked state regulators to approve a bevy of new electricity generation assets — plus transmission infrastructure improvements — citing the state’s economic growth and the need to meet new demand, especially in winter. The proposal largely hinges on expanding natural gas capacity and buying electricity from out-of-state facilities, though it also includes more renewable resources and energy storage.

The request to add mostly fossil fuel power comes after the planet just endured its hottest summer on record and after scientists and the federal government have repeatedly warned that the dangerous effects of climate change will worsen without swift action to reduce emissions.

Georgia Power says its current forecasts show a need for 6,600 more megawatts by the end of the decade, some 1,650% more than it forecast in January 2022.

“Georgia has continued to experience rapid economic growth since the filing of our IRP in early 2022,” said Kim Greene, chairman, president, and CEO of Georgia Power. “Many businesses coming to the state are bringing large electrical demands at both a record scale and velocity.”

The company wants to:

  • Continue purchasing 750 megawatts of electricity from corporate cousin Mississippi Power. The exact sources that electricity would come from is not immediately clear, but Mississippi Power’s system is heavily reliant on coal and gas.
  • Continue purchasing 230 megawatts of electricity from a gas-fired power plant in Pace, Florida.
  • Build 200 more megawatts of solar and pair it with 200 megawatts of battery storage at a to-be-determined site in the state. It also wants to connect a 178-megawatt battery storage system to existing solar installations at Robbins and Moody Air Force Bases.
  • Explore adding another 622 megawatts of storage by the end of 2027.
  • Build three new gas-burning turbines at Plant Yates in Coweta County capable of producing between 1,000 and 1,400 megawatts total.
  • Potentially buy another power asset within the system of its parent company, Southern Company.
  • Establish new solar programs for industrial and commercial customers, plus expand a residential energy efficiency program for customers with smart thermostats.

Georgia Power’s request to add more capacity came much sooner than expected.

Just last summer, regulators at the PSC approved a 20-year energy plan for the company. That plan called for Georgia Power to shutter all of its coal-fired power plants by 2028, except for Plant Bowen near Cartersville, while adding huge amounts of natural gas and solar to pick up the slack.

At the time, Georgia Power said the roadmap would allow it to meet demand “for years to come, even as customer preferences, society’s energy needs, technology, and the energy landscape continue to evolve.” The utility wasn’t scheduled to bring another long-range plan before the commission until 2025.

The company has also recently added new capacity from the Plant Vogtle expansion. The first new nuclear unit at the plant near Augusta came online in August and produces enough electricity to serve about 457,000 Georgia Power customers. The second reactor’s completion was recently delayed, but it is expected to be in service by the end of March next year.

Units 3 and 4 at Plant Vogtle, in Burke County near Waynesboro, Georgia, on Monday, July 31, 2023. (Arvin Temkar/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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Credit: TNS

But late last month, the company signaled it might ask for more resources soon.

On September 26, Georgia Power published a “request for information” on its website, asking respondents about generation assets they could provide. The company said its projections revealed to “greater capacity needs.”

The solicitation was for “firm capacity,” meaning electricity sources that can generate around the clock. It listed three technologies of interest: gas power plants, massive batteries known as energy storage systems (ESS) and energy storage systems paired with a renewable resource, like solar.

The new capacity Georgia Power has asked for will now need to be approved by the five members of the PSC. A series of hearings will be held for the utility to present its case and interested parties to probe or challenge it, but those dates have not been set.

In a statement, the nonprofit Southern Environmental Law Center (SECL) called Georgia Power’s request to invest in more fossil-fueled electricity assets “shocking.”

“We are deeply troubled Georgia Power is walking back the incremental steps it has taken in our state’s clean energy transition and instead doubling down on dirty, expensive fossil fuels,” said Jennifer Whitfield, a senior attorney at the SELC.

Plant Scherer, a Georgia Power plant, is seen from the air using a drone on Tuesday, November 9, 2021, near Juliette. (Elijah Nouvelage for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Elijah Nouvelage

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Credit: Elijah Nouvelage

In its filing, Georgia Power also left the door open to keeping at least one of its coal-fired power plants — Plant Scherer near Macon — running beyond its planned closure date in 2028. The company said it would not make a final decision on whether to keep Scherer or other coal plants open until 2025.

Georgia Power says its modeling shows it could now add as many as 10,000 megawatts of new solar to its system by 2035, up from the 6,000 it estimated last year.

But the company has not formally requested to add that much solar and has struggled to add the capacity that the commission has already approved. After issuing a request for proposals last year, the company so far has failed to fill any of the 1,030 megawatts of solar it was seeking to bring online in 2023 and 2024. An earlier request for bids also fell 230 megawatts short of its goal. The company has attributed the stumbles, in part, to supply chain issues and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aaron Mitchell, Georgia Power’s vice president of pricing and planning, said the new investments it wants to make in fossil fuels will not “deter the company from continuing to stay committed to the energy transition of our fleet.”

Adding any new resources will cost money and would likely drive up electricity rates, but exactly how much is unclear.

Still, any increase would add to a logjam of recent hikes facing ratepayers to pay for Plant Vogtle, power plant fuel and more. Even before this new request, residential customers using 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a month were likely to see their monthly bills go up by around $45 by 2025, according to estimates from the Southern Environmental Law Center.

A note of disclosure

This coverage is supported by a partnership with 1Earth Fund, the Kendeda Fund and Journalism Funding Partners. You can learn more and support our climate reporting by donating at