Georgia Power describes itself as "an investor-owned, tax-paying utility that serves 2.25 million customers in all but four of Georgia's 159 counties." It is the largest of four electric utilities comprising Southern Company.
Georgia Power utilizes transmission lines carrying 115,00 volts, 230,000 volts and 500,000 volts. Georgia Power has interconnections with the Tennessee Valley Authority to the north, Alabama Power Company to the west, South Carolina Gas and Electric and Duke Energy to the east, and Florida Power and Light to the south.
Georgia Power and coal
Georgia Power operates Scherer Steam Generating Station. In January 2009, Sue Sturgis of the Institute of Southern Studies compiled a list of the 100 most polluting coal plants in the United States in terms of coal combustion waste (CCW) stored in surface impoundments like the one involved in the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant coal ash spill. The data came from the EPA's Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) for 2006, the most recent year available.
Coal Plant Conversion
In March 2009 the Georgia Public Service Commission approved Georgia Power's request to convert its Mitchell Steam Generating Plant (Georgia) Unit 3 from coal-fired to biomass. Located near Albany, Georgia, the facility will reportedly be able to produce 96 megawatts of power once the conversion is completed in June 2012, making it one of the largest biomass power plants in the United States. Georgia Power says it will draw on wood fuel from suppliers within a 100-mile radius of the power plant, and plans to begin the conversion by spring 2011. Plant Mitchell is one of many Coal plant conversion projects throughout the U.S.
Proposed coal unit retirements
In March 2011, Georgia Power announced that it expects to request approval from the Georgia Public Service Commission to decertify two coal-generating units 1 and 2 at the Harllee Branch Generating Plant, totaling 569 megawatts. The company expects to ask for decertification of the units as of the effective dates of the Georgia Multipollutant Rule, which are currently anticipated to be Dec. 31, 2013 for unit 1 and Oct. 1, 2013 for unit 2. GP said the costs of upgrades would be uneconomical for its customers. The commission is expected to vote on the decertification request in spring 2012.
Branch, Yates, and Kraft
On January 7, 2013, Georgia Power said it plans to seek approval from Georgia regulators to retire 15 coal-, oil- and natural gas-fired power plants in the state, totaling 2,061 megawatts (MW).
Also being retired are Kraft Unit 4 and Boulevard Plant 2 and 3, fired by natural gas and oil, and McManus Plant units 1-2, which are oil-fired.
The company said it expects to ask to retire the units, other than Kraft 1-4, by the April 16, 2015, effective date of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Mercury and Air Toxics (MATS) rule. The company said it expects to seek a one-year extension of the MATS compliance date for Plant Kraft and retire those units by April 16, 2016.
GP and coal regulations
In July 2011, Georgia Power said it can’t meet the Jan. 1, 2012 deadline of the Cross State Air Pollution Rule by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to cap and regulate two major pollutants - sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide - from its coal-fired power plants. The EPA disagreed, saying in a statement: “[Utilities] have known that these emission reduction requirements were coming for many years now, and many have already taken many or all of the steps needed to comply.”
Utilities that cannot meet the requirements will be forced to buy emission allowances, which vary in price depending upon the state. (For Georgia Power, the cost of emissions would start at $600 for every ton of sulfur dioxides and $500 for every ton of nitrogen oxides, with built-in increases for 2014.). Georgia Power would recover the cost of the emission allowances through fuel charges. The company could not ask for those costs until the emissions are actually used.
The new EPA edict requires reductions in region-wide sulfur dioxide emissions of 20 percent by 2012 and 50 percent by 2014, and to curb region-wide nitrogen oxide emissions by 12 percent in 2012 and 18 percent in 2014. Georgia is grouped with states that won’t have to observe the 2014 requirements, the EPA said.
Georgia has struggled with its air quality for decades. In 1986-88 measurements by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, the region’s ozone level reached its worst on record — measured at 124 parts per billion. When the EPA set 84 parts per billion as the ozone standard in 1997, the region registered 118 parts per billion in 1997-99 measurements; only in 2011 did it meet the 1997 standard.
Georgia Power has pollution scrubbers installed on four of its coal units at Plant Bowen and William P. Hammond Steam-Electric Generating Plant, as well as two units at Wansley Plant and one of the four units at the Scherer Steam Generating Station. Bowen and Wansley also have selective catalytic reduction (SCRs), as does one of the four units at Hammond. Scrubbers and SCRs are being built for the remaining units at Scherer. The installed scrubbers and SCRs must be done by 2015. The utility also has said it plans to close two of the four coal-fired units at Plant Branch. Plant McDonough’s two coal units are being converted to three natural gas units, the first of which will start producing power in 2012.
The new EPA rule is the first of two that will impact coal plants. Guidelines to regulate mercury are expected in November 2011.
Georgia Power and nuclear
In a bid to add two reactors to the Vogtle plant, Georgia Power lobbied the state legislature for the ability "to charge electric customers for construction costs before the nuclear plants start producing electricity," referred to as construction work in progress. The legislature passed CWIP, as Senate Bill 31, but environmentalists filed a legal challenge to the measure in September 2009. The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy argued that in giving "Georgia Power permission to charge electric customers for construction costs before the nuclear plants start producing electricity, that the law amounted to a sort of tax that gives the utility something for nothing." The Alliance lawsuit states: "The adoption of the nuclear tariff by the Georgia General Assembly creates an unconstitutional gratuity in favor of Georgia Power and its stockholders, for, among other reasons, paying such stockholders of Georgia Power a return on equity in excess of $1 billion before Units 3 and 4 at Plant Vogtle are even put into service, i.e., for services which have not been rendered."  However state utility regulators agreed to Georgia Power’s plans for the two 1,100-megawatt reactors.
In August 2009 federal regulators completed their review of safety and environmental issues related to building two additional reactors at the site and granted Georgia Power a federal permit, called an early-site permit, to begin preliminary construction work. The permit is good for 20 years, but the utility still needs to secure a combined operating license from federal regulators. Construction of the reactors is expected to be completed by 2017. The utility’s portion of the total estimated $14 billion cost will be $6.4 billion.
Fossil fuel power plants
|Plant||Nearest City||Years Built||Capacity|
|Bowen Steam Plant||Cartersville, Georgia||1971, 1972, 1974, 1975||3,499 MW|
|Harllee Branch Generating Plant||Milledgeville, Georgia||1965, 1967, 1968, 1969||1,746 MW|
|William P. Hammond Steam-Electric Generating Plant||Coosa, Georgia||1954, 1955, 1970||953 MW|
|Kraft Plant||Savannah, Georgia||1958, 1961, 1965||208 MW|
|John J. McDonough Steam Generating Plant||Smyrna, Georgia||1963, 1964||598 MW|
|McIntosh Steam Plant||Rincon, Georgia||1979||178 MW|
|Mitchell Steam Generating Plant (Georgia)||Albany, Georgia||1964||163 MW|
|Scherer Steam Generating Station||Juliette, Georgia||1982, 1984, 1987, 1989||3,564 MW|
|Wansley Plant||Franklin, Georgia||1976, 1978||1,904 MW|
|Yates Steam Generating Plant||Newnan, Georgia||1950, 1952, 1957, 1958, 1974||1,487 MW|
Georgia Power plans to convert the 1960s coal-fired Plant McDonough into a bigger power plant that uses natural gas. The conversion will replace 540 megawatts of coal-fired generation with more than 2,500 megawatts of natural gas generation.
Report: Georgia Power's nuclear plants not replacing coal
A 2011 report by NC Warn, "New Nuclear Power is Ruining Climate Protection Efforts and Harming Customers", argues that companies like Georgia Power have said they want to lead the way to a “low carbon” future by building more nuclear power plants, but instead of replacing their coal-burning plants with nuclear power, the companies "plan to keep operating most or all of their coal plants indefinitely, while adding more nuclear (and fossil fuel) plants so they can expand electricity sales both within and outside the region."
The report states that "Georgia Power, part of Southern Company, plans to increase its generating capacity by a net 3,282 MW by 2020. If successful, its nuclear capacity would grow by 1,007 MW based on Georgia Power’s ownership share of two AP1000 units now in a pre-licensing construction phase at its Plant Vogtle site. The company plans to close old, small coal units that represent 11.6% of its coal fleet’s 10,690 MW capacity."
In 2013 leaders of the Atlanta Tea Party challenged Georgia Power over its reluctance to increase the use of solar power, the ballooning costs of building a new nuclear power plant, and its legal right to monopoly status.
Georgia Power Company
241 Ralph McGill Boulevard NE
Atlanta, GA 30308
Articles and resources
Related SourceWatch articles
- Georgia Power: About Us", Georgia Power website, accessed July 2009.
- "Bright Ideas" Georgia Power’s Outdoor Lighting newsletter, Summer 2006.
- Georgia Power: About Us", Georgia Power website, accessed July 2009.
- Sue Sturgis, "Coal's ticking timebomb: Could disaster strike a coal ash dump near you?," Institute for Southern Studies, January 4, 2009.
- "TRI Explorer", U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, accessed January 2009.
- "Georgia Power Wins Approval to Switch Coal Plant to Biomass Power" U.S. Department of Energy Website, March 25, 2009
- "Georgia Power Announces Plans to Decertify Two Coal Generating Units" PR Newswire, March 16, 2011.
- "Georgia Power to close 15 coal, oil units," AJC, Jan. 7, 2013.
- Kristi E. Swartz, "Ga. Power says it can't meet EPA deadline" Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 23, 2011.
- "Plants," Georgia Power website, accessed September 2009.
- "Facts & figures," Georgia Power website, accessed September 2009.
- Walter C. Jones, "Nuclear opponents attacking from many angles: Lawsuit may halt reactor construction," Morris News Service / Athens Banner-Herald (Georgia), September 5, 2009.
- Kristi E. Swartz, "Federal permit clears way for nuclear plants at Vogtle" Atlanta Business News, August 26, 2009
- "Facts and Figures" Georgia Power Website, September 2009
- "Generating Plants", Georgia Power website, accessed August 2009.
- "Improving Air Quality" Georgia Power Website, September 2009
- Jim Warren, "New Nuclear Power is Ruining Climate Protection Efforts and Harming Customers" NC Warn, 2011 Report.
-  Forbes.com, March, 2011.
- "New CEO at Georgia Power," Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Nov. 17, 2010.
- Ray Henry, "Tea party targeting Southern Co. power monopoly," AP, June 2, 2013.