Georgia Power to shutter 15 coal- and oil-fired power plants

Source: Jeremy P. Jacobs, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Georgia’s largest power provider announced today that it will retire 15 coal- and oil-fired generating units by April 2016.

Georgia Power, Southern Co.’s largest division, said it will ask the Georgia Public Service Commission to decertify units at four of its power plants as it reformulates its generating strategy.

“We recognize the significant impact that these retirements will have on the local communities and we took that into account when making these decisions,” Georgia Power President Paul Bowers said in a statement. “We are in the midst of a significant transition in our fleet that will result in a more diverse fuel portfolio — including nuclear, 21st century coal, natural gas, renewables and energy efficiency — to ensure we maintain our commitment for generations to come.”

In sum, the company is retiring 2,061 megawatts of coal- and oil-fired capacity.

The first retirements will occur at the Branch power plant in Putnam County, the Yates plant in Coweta County and the McManus plant in Glynn County. Those should occur by April 2015 when U.S. EPA’s new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) air regulations go into effect.

The Georgia Public Service Commission had approved the utility’s request to retire two units at the Branch plant last March, but today’s announcement indicates the company plans to shut down the remaining units at the facility altogether.

George Power said it will seek a one-year extension of the MATS deadline for four units at its Kraft plant in Chatham County, then will retire those by April 2016.

The utility said several factors went into the retirement decisions, including EPA regulations, economic conditions and low natural gas prices. Georgia Power is also asking the commission to switch two units at the Yates facility from coal generation to natural gas.

Coal-fired units at other facilities, the company said, are installing additional emissions controls to comply with MATS.

The Sierra Club welcomed the news, noting that Georgia Power is retiring nearly a quarter of its coal-fired plants.

“Georgia families will be breathing easier now that some of the state’s oldest and largest polluters will be phased out,” said Seth Gunning of Sierra Club’s Georgia chapter. “If the company chooses to replace this capacity with home-grown, 21st century energy technology like solar and wind, their decision will also be good for Georgia jobs.”

Despite planned retirements, Southern has committed to coal’s future through its Kemper County, Miss., carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) project. The company hopes it becomes the nation’s first coal-fired power plant capturing and storing the greenhouse gas at large scale (ClimateWire, Dec. 19, 2012).

Last week the International Energy Agency renewed its call for governments and utilities to invest in CCS, which the Paris-based group says is the only long-term way to control climate change while burning fossil fuels at expected levels. The IEA plans to release an updated version of its CCS technology road map this spring.