State utility regulators decided Tuesday to allow Georgia Power to close two outdated coal fired plants.

It’s a decision that complies with federal environmental rules, but it may come at a price to power customers.

It could have cost up to 3 billion dollars to upgrade Plant Branch and Plant Mitchell to meet Environmental Protection Agency standards. The state’s public service commission agreed it was most cost-effective to shut the plants down.

To offset the lost electricity, regulators will allow Georgia Power to replace the coal plants with energy from natural gas plants. They also have an option to purchase power from outside sources. But customers have to pay more for it.

Stan Wise, with the Public Service Commission, says there’s no way around more expensive power bills in order to prevent potential brownouts and blackouts:

“Customers in this state will continue to receive an adequate supply of energy, it will be a cleaner product than what we have, but it will be more expensive than what we’ve seen in the past, because we’ve got to comply with these EPA regulations.”

Clare McGuire with Georgia Watch, a consumer advocacy group, says rate payers should not have to bear that expensive and excessive burden:

“There’s a price associated with ensuring reliability, but there’s also a price associated with excess capacity and that’s a price that paid by customers who will pay for that as part of their rates.”

The impact of the cost would affect Georgia Power customers starting in 2019.

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