Georgia Power will add 525 megawatts of solar power to its capacity over the next two years, according to the terms of a 3-2 vote by the Public Service Commission. It’s the first time the state is requiring the company to add renewables to its energy mix.
The plan will require the power company to add the solar power to its supply source in addition to the 260 megawatts that it had already had voluntarily committed to.
Commissioner Bubba McDonald, who introduced the expansion plan, said that he did so because solar needs to be larger part of Georgia's future.
"I’ve got grandchildren that 20 years from now I hope that they can look back as we are graded on what we have done and say, ‘You know what, my grandfather was on the Georgia Public Service Commission in 2013 and because of some issues that he took grasp of, we’ve got good, reliable, clean energy that we can depend on in the state of Georgia,” said McDonald.
There were claims during the meeting that the new rules would lead to monopoly and higher rates for subscribers, but Georgia Power's lead attorney Kevin Greene, in a back-and-forth with Commissioner Doug Everett, who voted in favor of the plan, said those issues would not be problems.
“It should not put upward pressure on ratepayers,” said Green.
“Will it create a solar monopoly for anyone?”
“No sir, our resources are all competitively bid.”
Commissioner Stan Wise remained unconvinced and suggested that Georgia Power was only going along with the plan to get favorable treatment in future cases.
“The ramifications will be higher rates which the company knows but won’t say because they have more important issues in front of us,” said Wise.
He went on to rail against the commission and Georgia Power, saying the solar plan was "concocted out of thin air" and an example of Washington-style social engineering.
"I’m real disappointed in the company,” Wise told WABE. It’s one thing for the commission to make a bad policy decision but it's extraordinary the company would lay down and take it."
Under the new plan, coal, natural gas, and nuclear power remain the state’s dominant energy sources. Georgia Power's energy mix is currently made up of less than one percent solar. With the plan, that will rise to about two percent.