GEORGIA POWER: Investing billions in Georgia's energy future; requests funding for grid improvements, storm restoration, environmental programs

Georgia Power issued the following announcement on June 28.

Company is also requesting to expand customer rate plans and enhance payment options

Company continues to invest in diverse energy resources to deliver clean, safe, reliable energy at rates that are 16% below the national average

Georgia Power today filed a request with the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) to increase customer rates by approximately 7% in 2020 to enable the company to continue making investments in Georgia's energy future. In the filing, the company highlights nearly $18 billion in recent and future investments being made to strengthen the reliability and resiliency of the state's electrical system and to comply with federal regulations. The company is also requesting to rebuild its storm restoration fund after more than 50 severe weather events have impacted its network in recent years, including historic storms such as Hurricanes Michael, Irma, and Matthew, and Ice Storm Pax. The filing also details costs of the company's environmental compliance programs, including efforts to help protect air and water quality. Additionally, the company is seeking to extend and expand its current suite of rate plans and enhance its payment options, including continuing to offer the low-income senior citizen discount, adding a Pay-by-Day rate plan and eliminating certain fees.

As outlined in the filing, the typical residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month would see an increase of $9.78 per month on their bill. A final decision by the PSC is expected in December.

For nearly 30 years, the company's rates have increased less than the rate of inflation and customers pay less today, and will pay less after the requested increase, than they paid in 1990 on an inflation-adjusted basis. Georgia Power's prices are 16% below the national average and residential customers currently pay less than $1 more per month today than they did in 2011. Georgia Power has not had a rate case filing in the last six years.

Georgia Power's investments include:

Infrastructure – Since 2013, Georgia Power has invested more than $4.1 billion in expanding transmission and distribution infrastructure, strengthening the reliability and resiliency of the electric grid, and plans to invest an additional $1.3 billion in a grid investment plan over the next three years. The company has worked to replace aging transmission assets and deploy automation technologies across the grid to reduce outage time. A few examples of this investment include:

  • Rebuilt an eight-mile transmission line from Plant McDonough through downtown Atlanta that is critical to the operations of customers such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Piedmont Hospital and the Atlanta Water Department.
  • Invested in Self-Healing Distribution Networks, which minimize the number of customers impacted by outages and reduce restoration times with automated restoration.

Future investments through the company's Grid Investment Plan include rebuilding 380 substations, 1,000 miles of wire and 800 distribution feeders, commonly referred to as circuits, to continue strengthening transmission and distribution infrastructure.

Storm restoration – Georgia Power is seeking to rebuild its storm restoration fund after more than 50 severe weather events, including multiple historic storms, impacted the company's network and more than 1.5 million customers over the last six years. These storms not only depleted the storm restoration fund but they also created an additional $450 million in restoration costs not currently covered in rates. The most significant included Hurricane Michael (2018), Hurricane Irma (2017), Hurricane Matthew (2016) and Ice Storm Pax (2014).

Environmental programs – Since 2013, Georgia Power has invested more than $2 billion in environmental compliance programs to meet state and federal environmental requirements. 

  • The company has installed environmental controls and made updates necessary to comply with the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Rule; the Clean Water Act (CWA); CWA's 1982 Steam Electric Power Plant Effluent Limitations Guidelines; the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act; and Georgia Rules for Solid Waste Management, which includes the State Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) Rule.
  • Georgia Power is in the process of closing its 29 ash ponds across the state. The company is completely removing the ash from 19 ponds located adjacent to lakes or rivers and is closing the remaining 10 ponds using advanced engineering methods and closure technologies to help ensure water quality is protected.

Rate Plans and Options
Georgia Power offers a suite of rate plans and payment options to fit customers' budgets and lifestyles. As part of this request, the company is seeking to continue and expand its options for customers, including:

  • Continuing to offer the low-income senior citizen discount. Currently, customers over the age of 65 who meet the income requirements for eligibility can receive up to $24 a month off their bill.
  • Eliminating fees associated with authorized payment locations and credit and debit card payments.
  • Adding a Pay-by-Day rate plan – giving residential customers a seventh rate option and even more control over their energy costs. Through this rate plan, customers can prepay money into their account and the same flat charge would be deducted daily from their account balance throughout the year.
  • Expanding its FlatBill® rate plan, which offers a 12-month fixed contract price, making it available to customers earlier by eliminating the one-year waiting period for pre-existing homes.

Today, the company currently offers six residential rate plans, including Smart Usage, FlatBill®, Plug-In Electric Vehicle, Nights & Weekends, PrePay and the traditional Residential Service plan. Customers also have options when it comes to paying their bills, including paying online or through the company's mobile app, at one of 4,000 authorized payment locations, over the phone, by mail or by setting up auto pay.

Providing customers a range of payment options has contributed to Georgia Power's consistent recognition by J.D. Power since 2013 for excellence in customer satisfaction, ranking number one in the Electric Utility Customer Satisfaction annual rankings for both Business and Residential customers for large utilities in the South. 

For more on the company's current rate plans and payment options, visit georgiapower.com/residential.

Income-Qualified Assistance Programs
Georgia Power will continue to help income-qualified customers with specially designed programs and resources to aid them in lowering and paying their bill. These programs include Project SHARE, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, an income-qualified senior citizen discount, the HopeWorks low-income weatherization program, and the Income Qualified Energy Efficiency Program, which is subject to PSC approval. Program details are available at georgiapower.com/energyassistance.

Maintaining a Diverse Energy Mix
In January, Georgia Power filed its 2019 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) with the PSC, outlining how it proposes to continue to deliver clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy to its 2.6 million customers over the next 20 years.

The company will continue to invest in a diverse mix of energy resources, including renewable energy. Working with the PSC, the company has diversified its portfolio through the development of renewable resources in a way that benefits all customers and has positioned the company as a national leader in solar and renewable energy growth. Georgia Power currently has one of the largest voluntary renewable portfolios in the country with more than 1,500 megawatts (MW)* of renewable resources online and an additional 1,600 MW* under development. Combined with the renewable programs requested through the 2019 IRP, and subject to PSC approval, Georgia Power plans to have more than 4,750 MW* of renewable energy resources in its portfolio by the end of 2024.

The 2019 IRP proposes energy efficiency targets similar to those approved in previous IRPs, while adding new, innovative energy-saving programs for both residential and commercial customers. By 2022, these programs, along with existing demand response programs, are designed to help reduce peak demand approximately 1,600 MW, which is 10% of the company's current peak demand

Georgia Power is also seeking approval through the IRP process to own and operate 80 MW of battery energy storage systems, which are critical to maximizing the value of renewable energy resources. The company seeks this opportunity to demonstrate the deployment, integration, operation and grid optimization of storage to gain valuable insight into how to maximize the value of storage for customers.

The PSC is expected to vote on the company's IRP request on July 16.

* REC Disclaimer: Georgia Power purchases only the null energy output from some renewable generating facilities that have contracted to sell that energy to Georgia Power. Ownership of the associated renewable energy credits (RECs) is specified in each respective power purchase agreement. The party that owns the RECs retains the right to use them.

Original source can be found here.

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