City of Decatur intervenes in Georgia Power’s resource planDecatur City Hall. Photo by Dean Hesse.
Decatur, GA — Decatur is advocating for energy efficiency and more access to renewable energy as the city plays a role in Georgia Power’s process to plan its electricity demand and strategies to meet needs over the next 20 years.
The city of Decatur, along with the city of Savannah, Athens-Clarke County, and DeKalb County formed a coalition to help with improving Georgia Power’s existing and proposed energy-efficiency programs, enhancing customers’ access to demand and usage data, and increasing access to renewable energy and distributed energy resources for residential and commercial customers.
Georgia Power’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) has to be approved by the state Public Service Commission. The PSC is set to decide on Georgia Power’s 2022 Integrated Resource Plan, with any possible changes, on July 21.
The city of Decatur intervened in the IRP proceedings as part of the Georgia Coalition of Local Governments to advocate for priorities and achieve the goals in the clean energy plans that have been adopted by or are anticipated to be adopted by local governments.
“No municipality has formally intervened in the IRP process ever since its inception,” Decatur Energy and Sustainability Manager David Nifong explained at the March 7 Decatur City Commission meeting.
The city of Atlanta intervened in Georgia Power’s rate case in 2019.
“They found that to be a very productive experience and that has actually helped their relationship with Georgia Power since then, but this would be the first time that a city or a group of cities has intervened formally in the process,” Nifong said.
The rate case determines how much revenue Georgia Power can collect, how much should be collected from each rate class, as well as the rate schedules and tariffs available to each class. The 2022 rate case was filed on June 24, Nifong said. He plans to make a separate recommendation to the city commission to intervene in the rate case proceedings.
In January, Georgia Power filed its 2022 Integrate Resource Plan to the Public Service Commission. The IRP outlines Georgia Power’s energy efficiency and energy production strategies to meet their forecasted electricity demand, he said.
“They’re required to do that every three years under the Integrated Resource Planning Act of 1991,” Nifong said. “It’s a somewhat lengthy process where the PSC reviews their plans, other parties intervene into the case, and then the PSC either approves or denies their plan.”
The IRP lays out Georgia Power’s plan to transition its fleet to more economical and cleaner resources, double its renewable and solar capacity, focus on energy storage solutions, and offer energy efficiency programs for customers, according to a press release.
At the July 18 city commission meeting, Nifong presented the board with a summary of the coalition’s intervention in the proceedings.
During the case, the coalition attended PSC hearings, met with the public service commissioners, cross-examined Georgia Power staff and filed expert testimony.
“The Coalition’s expert testimony advocated for alternate rate designs for the Company’s Community Solar program, offered a possible rebate program to lower upfront capital costs for residential rooftop solar, and proposed improvements to the Company’s income-qualified energy efficiency programs, including the need to streamline a burdensome income verification process,” Nifong wrote in a memo. “Members of the Coalition also met with each of the five PSC Commissioners to discuss these items and other priorities, including the expansion of the monthly netting tariff for residential solar arrays.”
Since June, the PSC Public Interest Advocacy staff and Georgia Power entered into a stipulation agreement that’s meant to resolve issues in Georgia Power’s IRP filing.
The stipulation agreement included three of the coalition’s priorities:
– Input on the design of the Municipalities, Universities, Schools and Hospitals (MUSH) carve-out of Georgia Power’s renewable energy credit program.
– Continuation of the Demand-Side Management Working Group, which allows local governments and stakeholders to work with Georgia Power to develop its energy-efficiency programs for the next Integrated Resource Plan cycle.
– Continuing the Automated Benchmarking Tool, which can provide information to building owners about electricity demand and usage to help guide improvements in energy efficiency. Georgia Power has proposed eliminating this tool.
Georgia Power also agreed to four additional items, such as exploring opportunities to streamline the income verification process required for income-qualified programs, expanding the residential investments for saving energy pilot to Savannah and potentially metro-Atlanta, coalition input on the design of Georgia Power’s distributed energy resource customer program.
The stipulations also include Georgia Power working with the coalition to identify philanthropic funding to remove safety, structural and heal barriers to participation in the income-qualified energy efficiency programs.
“There are items in the stipulation agreement that the city and other members of the coalition did not agree with, including the removal of about 1,000 megawatts of battery storage from the company’s filing, but all in all, the coalition felt that it was in our best interest to sign on to the stipulations in exchange for the four items…,” Nifong said.
In 2019, the PSC approved a pilot project of a facility with about 260 megawatts of battery storage, which is still underway.
“The Public Interest Advocacy staff argued that Georgia Power has not demonstrated that they can operate that amount of battery storage, so it would be an imprudent risk for ratepayers,” Nifong said. “Our hope is that we don’t get to 2025 and there is a request to add even more renewable energy onto the grid that cannot be supported, because there isn’t adequate battery storage.”
The Public Service Commission will meet at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, July 21, in room 110 at 244 Washington Street SW in Atlanta. The session will also be livestreamed on YouTube. For more information about the meeting, click here.
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