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Monday, February 4, 2013 - 11:25am

More Gas, Less Coal In Power Plan

Georgia Power has filed an updated 20-year plan with state regulators.

The state's leading energy supplier is looking to diversify its energy portfolio.

The company is required to submit a long-range plan every three-years to the Public Service Commission.

The latest version would reduce the number of coal-fired plants and increase the use of natural gas and solar.

Georgia Power spokesman Mark Williams says he expects about two percent of the company's energy to come from solar by 2017.

"After all the resources are added through the Advanced Solar Initiative, we expect to have about 270 megawatts of solar capacity under contract," says Williams. "That will be the largest solar portfolio for any investor-owned utility that operates in a state without a renewable portfolio standard.

Tim Lieuwen of Georgia Tech's Strategic Energy Institute says the move to renewable solar and cleaner burning natural gas and away from coal isn't entirely altruistic.

"The big difference is the regulatory environment," Lieuwen says. "At the end of the day, that's what's driving the integration of these renewable sources."

Lieuwen says energy firms must diversify portfolios to compete with rapidly changing prices and regulations.

"This is why Georgia Power is being cautious and not going all in on gas," Lieuwen says. "They want to have a balanced portfolio of nuclear, coal, natural gas and a growing renewable piece just to make sure they're not going to be exposed to the price of any one fuel."

The plan calls for reducing emissions by shutting down 15 coal-fired plants, while increasing natural gas to about half its portfolio.

Georgia Power officials predict the plan will have "no significant impact" on customer bills in 2014.

The Public Service Commission tentatively plans to have a public hearing on Georgia Power's 20-year plan in April.

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