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PSC adds renewables, EV battery pilot to Georgia Power's approved resource plan

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PSC adds renewables, EV battery pilot to Georgia Power's approved resource plan

The long-term resource plan approved by regulators charged Georgia Power Co. with procuring more utility-scale renewables and co-creating a pilot program to reuse lithium-ion batteries to charge electric vehicles.

During the Georgia Public Service Commission's July 16 vote on Georgia Power's integrated resource plan, commissioners unanimously approved PSC Chairman Lauren "Bubba" McDonald's motion for the Southern Co. subsidiary to add 2,000 MW of utility-scale renewable resources. Half of the procurement would go to Georgia Power's commercial and industrial customer program while the rest would be dedicated to all retail customers. The utility will also procure 210 MW of distributed generation solar resources.

Georgia Power said in a news release following the vote that the renewable additions will increase its renewable generation by over 72% to 5,390 MW by 2024 and boost its total renewable capacity to 22% of its portfolio.

Georgia Power's new clean energy target is more than double the amount the utility originally proposed when it filed its resource plan in January. Various stakeholders and industry groups testified that Georgia Power should be more aggressive with renewable targets and coal decommissioning plans. The pressure led to Georgia Power and PSC staff amending the resource plan in June to raise utility-scale renewable procurement to 1,500 MW and 80 MW of energy storage demonstration projects, but that increase still left environmental and solar advocacy groups underwhelmed.

The PSC also signed off on commissioner Tim Echols' proposal to have Georgia Power and the commission work together to explore whether used batteries from electric vehicles could be repurposed for fast-charging EV stations. Echols said there is an excess of partially-used products, particularly Nissan Leaf batteries, that still have a lot of energy left. Using these batteries for a pilot could help expand EV charging availability throughout the state while insulating the grid from electricity demand spikes.

"There is no recycling available for these batteries at this time," Echols said during the meeting. "Given we're about to approve 80 MW of new lithium-ion batteries, it's in our benefit to do a pilot program to see if it will work to reuse these batteries for a purpose that benefits the public and our grid and the Georgia community in general."

The program would be capped at $250,000 in costs passed down to ratepayers.

The commission also signed off on Georgia Power's planned coal retirements for the 142.5-MW McIntosh plant and all four units at the 840-MW Hammond plant. While stakeholders called on Georgia Power to retire additional coal plants and units, such as Bowen's units 1 and 2, utility executives said that would threaten grid resiliency and require major transmission updates to meet demand.