Below are the public comments that were crafted by students and delivered at the January 16 and 17 Georgia Public Service Commission hearings. The 17 students who delivered these comments are currently enrolled at Georgia Tech, Georgia State, Oglethorpe University and Decatur High School. (Note: If you would like a copy with the footnotes, email us at email@example.com)
Why we are here today.
I and many other students are here today because we are deeply troubled by Georgia Power’s updated IRP request for additional energy sourcing. Why? Because their request ignores the worldwide scientific community’s urgent call for a rapid phase down of fossil fuels and a transition to clean and renewable energy.
We are here today to ask you to exercise your authority to require Georgia Power to not include additional fossil fuel energy sourcing or fossil fuel plant construction in its updated IRP. Instead, please require them to take responsible and safe actions to both reduce and meet future energy demands.
An important part of your mission statement is to provide safe electricity to Georgia consumers. Historically, this meant that the delivery of electricity to consumers should be safe and would pose no immediate danger to consumers such as unsafe exposure to flammable chemicals, fire, etc. Now, however, the generation of energy itself, when done using fossil fuels, has become an existential threat to our safety due to the undisputed impacts of greenhouse gas emissions on our planet. For this reason, we are asking you to reject Georgia Power’s updated IRP proposal and require them to instead make major investments in clean renewable energy production, battery storage, and energy efficiency programs.
They must act now. Later is too late.
As a group, we would like to share some history that relates to decisions you will be making, then talk about why natural gas is not a good bridge fuel, and then discuss what can be done to both meet and decrease the newly forecasted energy demand.
Climate disinformation stopped and delayed action for over 35 years.
I’m going to focus on 1988, a pivotal year for our climate in several ways.
Scientists had already understood for decades before 1988 that human produced greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide and methane would warm the planet, but in 1988 climate change emerged as a front page issue. A major heat wave killed thousands, inflicted billions of dollars in damage, and demonstrated to average citizens what a future of unmitigated climate change would look like.
Also in 1988, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was created. The IPCC delivers, on a regular basis, comprehensive scientific reports about climate change. Scientists from around the world, selected for their expertise in their field, volunteer their time and collectively spend thousands of hours analyzing the peer reviewed research on climate change. In 1990 and 1992, the IPCC published their first reports, stating with certainty that human generated greenhouse gas emissions were contributing to climate change, that some degree of warming had already occurred, and that doubling atmospheric CO2 content would likely cause 1.5 to 4.5 degrees celsius of warming. The IPCC underlined the global impacts of climate change and the necessity of international cooperation to combat them.
But, unfortunately, 1988 was also a pivotal year for Southern Company. For decades prior to 1988, Southern company executives had been privy to the latest scientific information regarding human produced greenhouse gas emissions, global warming, and the predicted devastating impacts. In fact, its own scientists were doing some of the cutting edge research in these areas.
But in 1988, as momentum for worldwide action to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions was growing, Southern Company buried that research and established itself as a driving force behind climate disinformation. They backed misleading campaigns that attacked climate science, opposed binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions, promoted “clean coal” as a false solution to the problem, and fought to slow the transition to clean and renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.
This is well documented in the comprehensive 2022 report, titled “Southern Company Knew.” The report identifies over $62 million that Southern Company paid to special interest groups and outside firms involved in campaigns against climate science and policies. The report only traces dollars spent from 1993 to 2004, and it acknowledges that it captures only a portion of the money that Southern Company has spent to influence the climate debate.
The consequences of climate inaction are vast and greatly impact youth.
I don’t know if you can relate to the anger and grief that the historical information just shared elicits from those of us who are young. You were all born in a different world. Most of your lives, the impacts of climate change were minimal, not often really felt. But from the time we were very young, we have been impacted by climate change. Those of us who grew up in Georgia have experienced many more really hot days each summer than you did as youth. At times we have had practices, games, and other outdoor events canceled due to the extreme heat. We have become accustomed to smog, exacerbated by heat, and wildfire smoke created by ultra dry conditions. Almost 9% of children in Georgia suffer from asthma, with many more going undiagnosed.
Some of us have friends or family who have been greatly impacted by extreme climate change fueled weather events. We know of people who have lost their crops due to extreme heat or drought, who have lost their homes and livelihoods due to massive fires, who have had their houses or businesses flooded due to intense hurricanes or massive rainfall events.
We know that the consequences of climate change are unjust.
We know that people with low incomes living near utilities and factories are impacted greatly by the pollutants they produce.
We know that people living in the poorest countries and low-lying island nations - which are home to roughly 1 billion people, yet account for less than 1 percent of humanity’s total planet-warming pollution - are suffering its impacts the most.
On the news, we hear of so many people who have become climate refugees because their water and food sources no longer exist. They have no choice but to move so that they can survive. Rising seas and other climate-change fueled massive flooding events regularly lead to disease, death, destruction, and displacement of large numbers of people.
And we know that unless dramatic action is taken, if we have children, they will be born into a world that is in a much, much worse situation. You must act now, later is too late.
It is so hard to know that this all could have been avoided. That over 35 years ago the science was already solid enough to justify global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is inexcusable that sufficient action wasn’t begun then. More than half of all greenhouse gas emissions have occurred since 1990, when the IPCC published its first report.
A better world, if powered by clean and renewable energy.
Just imagine what the world would be like today if 35 years ago large, influential business entities like Southern Company hadn’t chosen to spend millions of dollars to spread climate misinformation. If they hadn’t worked to convince the public and politicians across the world to not take climate action. Imagine if instead they had supported the growing calls for climate action and taken meaningful steps to curb their significant greenhouse gas emissions.
There wouldn’t have been billions of dollars of subsidies going every year to help build fossil fuel infrastructure and fund research for new polluting, water intensive technologies such as fracking. These subsidies would have gone toward clean and renewable energy instead. Transmission lines to carry renewable energy would have been laid years and years ago, when land was cheaper and there was less property to negotiate around. Clean energy technology for solar panels, wind turbines, and battery storage would have developed sooner, reached competitive cost points sooner, and progressed way beyond where they are today. And the same would be true for energy efficient products such as heat pumps, improved insulation, and electric cars.
The world would be more stable, as tyrants such as Vladimir Putin would not have amassed such great wealth and power through exploiting their countries’ oil and gas resources. Countries without oil and gas resources would have developed their infrastructure to use the wind and solar that many of them have in plentiful amounts. This would have created more prosperity and stability in those countries, and when combined with less climate fueled droughts and flooding, there would be so many fewer people migrating from their homes to other countries in order to survive.
Our air and water would be cleaner. There would be less cancer, less asthma, less black lung disease.
But this is not the world that we live in today, because people who benefited from fossil fuels used their power and influence to stop and stall climate action. They chose profits over people and our planet.
Recent climate denial.
A particularly egregious public example of climate science denial took place in 2017.
Tom Fanning, then CEO of Southern Company, was asked on national television if he believed that it had been proven that carbon dioxide was the primary driver of climate change. His response? “No, certainly not.” This, despite the fact that in 2013 and 2014 the IPCC had published reports stating that “human influence on the climate system is clear, and limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.” And in 2015, virtually every nation had signed on to the Paris Agreement, commiting to pursue efforts to hold global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius. Why? Because the science indicated that beyond that temperature increase the impacts of catastrophic heat waves, flooding, drought, crop failures, and species extinction would become significantly harder for humanity to handle.”
But it must have been difficult for Mr. Fanning to publicly agree with the science, no matter how convincing or accepted. Despite the fact that scientists had already been warning for years that natural gas might be as bad as coal, in 2016 Southern Company made a big investment in natural gas. They acquired the gas company AGL Resources.
Was there any attempt by other utility CEOs to correct Mr. Fanning? Most were asked directly, and two replied with brief written comments. But from Georgia Power and all the rest? Nope. Crickets. Likely because most utilities were paying dues to organizations that were still trying to use that “it's not certain yet” argument to prevent policies to limit coal and natural gas production. They certainly couldn’t convince everyone to reject the climate science at that point, but they just needed enough to prevent climate action.
Generating electricity by using coal and natural gas is not safe.
Now, Georgia Power has presented you with an updated request for its 2022 IRP. They are asking for a significant increase (30%) of natural gas to generate new electricity, permission to build new fossil fuel plants, and the option to keep some coal-fired plants running past previously projected shutdown dates. The answer to these requests must be a resounding no.
It is a given that Georgia Power’s coal plants must be shut down as scheduled, or even faster. Coal has not been economically viable for years and burning it produces large amounts of CO2. It has also been determined that coal particulate matter is particularly damaging, attributable to thousands of deaths each year, high rates of asthma and other physical ailments. And there is the expensive problem of how to safely dispose of dangerous coal ash. Enough said.
So what about natural gas? The burning of natural gas produces about half the carbon dioxide as compared to burning coal. That is still a lot of CO2, particularly with our very, very limited carbon budget. But the main component of natural gas - 75% to 95% - is methane, a much more powerful greenhouse gas in the short term. Our understanding of its danger, and therefore the danger of natural gas, has grown substantially in recent years.
From 2012 to 2018, the Environmental Defense Fund coordinated a groundbreaking research project involving more than 140 researchers from 40 institutions. The goal: to establish a reliable benchmark of the methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. They discovered that methane emissions were 60% higher than previous estimates by EPA and the industry, putting the rate of methane emissions from domestic oil and gas operations at 2.3 percent of total production per year.
This is incredibly alarming, given that a peer-reviewed study, published in July of 2023 and involving researchers from Brown, Harvard, Duke, the Rocky Mountain Institute, and NASA, found that it takes as little as .2% (point two percent!) of gas to leak to make it as big a driver of climate change as coal. That is a very difficult amount for utilities to maintain and monitor. It leaves just a tiny margin of error for a gas that is notorious for leaking from drill sites, processing plants, and the pipes that transport it into power stations or homes and kitchens.
A Stanford University study, published in July of 2022, focused on the emissions of methane after natural gas arrives in home kitchens. They found that the average natural gas stove is estimated to emit 0.8-1.3 percent of the gas used as unburned methane. More than 75 percent of this leakage occurs while the stove is turned off.
There are also super emitter events. Using advances in satellite technology, it was estimated that a large gas well leak in Ohio in 2018 - over just a 20 day period - released more methane than some European countries emit in a typical year.
Why methane, the main component of natural gas, is so dangerous.
Natural gas could have been a part of the solution today if we had begun taking serious climate action 35 years ago. Because methane doesn’t remain in the atmosphere nearly as long as CO2, natural gas could have been a bridge fuel, even with significant leakage. But now we are in a climate emergency. In their most recent assessment in March of 2023, the IPCC said that continuing insufficient action to limit greenhouse gas emissions has set us on a course to reach the critical 1.5 degree celsius threshold in about 10 years.
Since methane is 80 times more powerful than CO2 in a 20 year period, a continued reliance on natural gas at current levels would be a primary driver of our pushing past that threshold.
But a rapid reduction of methane could be our salvation. That’s why 155 countries have signed the Global Methane Pledge, targeting a cut in methane emissions of 30% of 2020 levels by the year 2030.
Georgia Power must do its part. They must not increase their use of natural gas for energy sourcing and they must not build new natural gas plants. Instead, Georgia Power needs to start aggressively planning to phase down on electricity generated by fossil fuels, in line with the targets of the international scientific community.
They must act now. Later is too late.
Georgia Power can meet increased energy needs with clean renewable energy, batteries, and demand side management.
What can be done to ensure that there is enough energy to meet future demand in Georgia? Lots!
The IPCC’s most recent report contains both a dire warning message and a message of hope. In its summary for policy makers, the IPCC makes it clear that we have all of the knowledge, tools, and financial resources right now to rapidly move to clean and renewable energy, phase down on fossil fuels, and keep us within or close to the critical 1.5 degree warming threshold.
And many analyses conclude that any money that we spend now will be offset by the co-benefits created by cleaner air and water, better health outcomes, and job creation.
Georgia Power must make major investments now in clean renewable energy, batteries, and demand side management.
They need to do it all and they need to begin NOW. Later is too late.
A much larger investment should be made in utility level solar and batteries.
Georgia Power must make a much larger investment in utility level solar and batteries than is planned for in their current IRP request.
The Georgia Public Service Commission pushed Georgia Power to include utility level solar starting in 2013, and Georgia is now, I believe, 5th or 6th in the nation for the amount of utility level solar it currently has installed. You all definitely deserve praise for this, with special recognition going to Commissioners McDonald and Echols. Thank you.
However, utilities across the board have been really lagging in clean energy sourcing. The 2023 report, The Dirty Truth About Utility Climate Pledges, puts Georgia’s efforts in perspective. It demonstrates that almost all of the pledges made by utilities to transition to clean and renewable energy are not ambitious enough, and that most utilities are not even meeting their own low targets. And, while many utilities have pledges for 2050, the majority lack critical interim targets.
So, it is clear that we shouldn’t compare ourselves to the low level of clean energy sourcing that most utilities have been achieving. How do we compare to the states and utilities that are doing the best in utility level solar? Not very well.
California has held the number one spot for decades. The state currently has 17,277 megawatts of utility level solar installed on its grid, as compared to about 4000 megawatts in Georgia. Just this year, though, California was surpassed by Texas. Texas has 18,364 megawatts of solar capacity installed on its grid as of September 2023. The vast majority of that was added since 2019. They nearly doubled their capacity from 2019 to 2020, and then doubled it again between 2020 to 2021. Also, Texas has a total capacity of 3300 megawatts of grid battery installation, almost all of which came on line since early 2021.
Yes, Texas is larger than us. But Georgia Power is saying that we need to add 6600 megawatts of new energy sourcing quickly, and Texas illustrates that it is possible to do much or all of that with utility level solar plus battery.
And most of Texas’ increased solar and battery installations occurred before the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), passed in 2022.
The IRA is a game changer for clean energy and stranded assets.
The IRA is a game changer. It has been heralded as the most significant climate legislation in history, and it includes a multitude of provisions that support utilities’ transition to clean energy. Available tax credits lower wind, solar, and storage project costs by a MINIMUM of 30 percent. According to several analyses, this makes 99% of gas plants more expensive than a clean energy mix alternative.
It is also important to note that these analyses do not take into account the economics of stranded assets. If Georgia Power is going to be part of meeting Southern Company’s net zero greenhouse gas emission goals by 2050, then any new gas plants will eventually become stranded assets. Even if they came on line by 2025, that leaves them with at most 25 years of productivity out of a predicted lifetime of 40+ years. If Southern Company and Georgia Power were to establish the interim target goals that the worldwide scientific community says are critical, then those assets will become obsolete much sooner. This stranded asset situation makes investing in new fossil fuel plants considerably more wasteful and costly relative to investments in solar and batteries.
The reliability of solar and wind.
Texas is also an example of what energy system researchers have been saying for years: A combination of wind, solar, and battery storage are often more reliable than fossil fuel generation to handle periods of extremely high demand, especially if these peaks occur for short durations during a day.
During the historic heat wave Texas had last summer, during which many all-time record highs were broken, the new, low-cost wind, solar, and batteries kept the grid afloat and Texans cool – in many cases saving lives. From a July 2, 2023 Forbes article: “Solar and wind provided 35% of statewide power last Tuesday and generated a record 31,500 megawatts Wednesday, which more than covered the 9,600 MW of electricity lost when extreme heat knocked several natural gas and coal plants offline. And just as solar power started falling in the evening, batteries kicked in immediately to get Texas through the most difficult part of the day when the sun was setting but the ACs were still cranking.”
Please ACT NOW to require Georgia Power to take advantage of the provisions in the IRA and greatly expand investment in utility level solar and battery storage.
You must act now. Later is too late.
The RNR net metering program must be reinstated without a cap.
Georgia Power must also reinstate the RNR net metering program to promote rooftop solar growth throughout Georgia.
Georgia has great rooftop solar potential, and rooftop solar could be an important asset in reducing Georgia’s peak energy demand. That peak demand occurs during the summer on hot sunny days between 2 pm and 7pm. For much of that 5 hour time period, rooftop solar panels can produce enough electricity to both power the buildings they are placed upon, reducing demand on the grid, and add excess electricity back to the grid.
But we are currently ranked 43rd in the US in terms of rooftop solar. Why? As Witness Dr. Marilyn Brown so thoroughly explained in her testimony before the commission, it is because of our net metering policies. Those states with the best net metering policies have more rooftop solar, those with the worst have less. For years, with the exception of the short period when people were able to sign up under the RNR net metering pilot program, Georgia has had one of the very worst policies.
At least 33 states have adopted net metering policies which credit excess electricity generated by customers at the retail rate. Almost all of the 33 still have those policies in place. That is what is needed to really grow rooftop solar.
The benefits of rooftop solar.
In their testimonies during the 2022 IRP hearings, Witnesses Alden M. Hathaway and Kevin Lucas, using supporting data and examples from other utilities, demonstrated that distributed solar generation can be a critical resource to increase overall system load factors. This increases reliability and resiliency, and could result in significant reduction in system costs that would save money for all customers.
Rooftop solar has so many other economic benefits. Here are a few.
First, the rooftop solar industry would see great growth. Rooftop solar is more labor intensive than utility level solar, and this would result in the creation of many good-paying jobs.
Also, if Georgia was to reinstate true net metering, we could eventually reach Drawdown Georgia’s target of 295,000 solar rooftops. Witness Alden Hathway estimated that this would bring in, on average, nearly $250 million per year in IRA government funds. Witness Dr. Marilyn Brown estimates that we have already lost $429 million in government funding given our policies that have not encouraged sufficient growth in the rooftop solar market.
Churches and schools that have solar panels on their buildings and over their parking lots would greatly reduce their energy bills. Schools could invest more money in serving their students, and churches could provide more valuable services for their community. And churches and school buildings with solar and battery storage could function as emergency centers providing a warm or cool place for vulnerable populations during power outages and extreme weather events.
Neighbors with rooftop solar and batteries can help out their neighbors when the power goes out. They can provide comfortable shelter, and make room in freezers and refrigerators for food to protect it from spoiling in case of extended outages.
And,of course, with less energy generated using fossil fuels, there would be less air pollution. This would lead to less asthma and other health problems, saving Georgians on health care costs.
Georgia Power's argument against RNR net metering.
We have three points to make about Georgia Power’s argument against expanding the RNR net metering program:
1. Georgia Power was ordered to provide a cost of service study to support any alleged cost shift to non rooftop solar customers. Instead they relied primarily upon a revenue erosion analysis, and they provided minimum data to support their conclusions.
2. Georgia Power used California, which just recently changed its net metering policies, as a warning case against net metering in general. This makes no sense. California is lightyears beyond our level of rooftop solar penetration. The Georgia Public Service Commission is fully capable, far off in the future when we begin to approach California’s level of rooftop solar, of adjusting the net metering policy, if necessary. Witness Dr. Marilyn Brown states that “I don’t think that we’re ever going to be in the situation where California is… We’re going to be blessed with a whole lot of gadgets in our houses” that will change the complex of electrification in favor of more rooftop solar.
3. Georgia Power was unable to use one of the scientists, Ahmad Faruqui, who testified for them in 2019 against expanding the RNR net metering program. He has recently publicly changed his 2019 position. He now claims that rooftop solar, especially with battery storage, reduces transmission and distribution costs across the system. He states that where solar deployment is in the early stages, where less than 5% of customers have deployed solar roofs, utilities should stick with net metering that credits excess electricity generated at the retail rate. Only .2% of Georgia Power’s customers currently have rooftop solar, 1/25th of the 5% figure he posits. Many other have done studies that demonstrate that any potential cost shift concerns wouldn’t arise until Georgia reaches around 10% rooftop solar penetration levels.
Summing it up, Georgia Power is asking to purchase more natural gas and to build more natural gas infrastructure to meet anticipated future peak demand. This is something that climate scientists are explicitly saying we can not do if we want to meet critical climate targets and prevent dramatically worse climate impacts. And Georgia Power is actively resisting expanding the RNR net metering program - even though this expansion would reduce the peak demand and would bring so many economic and health benefits to the people in our state. Net metering policies that credit excess electricity at the retail rate is something that 33 states have already done, and that almost all of those 33 are still doing.
This is not a situation where it is appropriate to find a compromise position between what Georgia Power wants and what intervenors have been requesting since the pilot RNR net metering program reached its cap in 2021.
Georgia Power has come back to you outside of the regular IRP cycle because they now anticipate a need for additional energy that is 17 times what they projected during the regular 2022 proceedings.
Please ACT NOW to require Georgia Power to reinstate RNR monthly net metering without a cap in response to this additional projected energy need.
You must act now. Later is too late.
Offshore wind potential should be explored and developed.
Georgia Power must also invest in offshore wind turbines.
Offshore wind is a great complement to solar by generating power during the times when sunlight is absent or weaker. The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) has determined that Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia have distinct resource quality advantages for offshore wind generation. Together they have 82% of the East Coast resource in shallow water - making it possible to get further offshore - and the proximity of the warm water Gulf Stream to the coast creates a highly energetic micro climate with higher wind speeds.
According to Jennette Gayer, director of the Environment Georgia Research and Policy Center, “We have an enormous renewable resource blowing just off our coastline that can help close the gap between us and a 100 percent renewable energy future.” The center’s April 2021 report found that Georgia could provide more than enough electricity to meet its 2019 electricity demand and over half of what it’s projected to use in 2050 with offshore wind.
Virginia and North Carolina recently entered into an agreement to work together on offshore wind development. Karen Grainey, with the Center for a Sustainable Coast, has the comment: “Over a decade ago a feasibility study identified two suitable sites for wind farms off the coast of Georgia. Since then, the climate crisis has grown ever more urgent. What are we waiting for?”
It is critical that Georgia Power meet its increasing energy demand with clean, renewable energy. We must take advantage of our offshore wind potential.
Please ACT NOW to direct Georgia Power to coordinate with Governor Kemp and the Georgia legislature to work together on offshore wind development.
You must act now. Later is too late.
Engage Georgians in demand side management.
Georgia Power must also invest more heavily in Demand Side Management, presenting opportunities for reducing energy consumption in the context of the scope and scale of the climate crisis.
Climate disinformation has robbed people of the opportunity to take critical action to protect themselves, their loved ones and future generations. When presented with correct information and actions to make a difference, Georgians will respond. This will lead to significant reductions in the energy demand in our state.
Will this really work? Yes, absolutely, as long as the messaging is clear and consistent and widespread and repeated.
Let’s consider the example of World War II where people were called upon to take action and make sacrifices to protect their future. They planted victory gardens, they collected scrap metal for warships, they recycled rags, paper, silk, and string. They supported government efforts to make big changes quickly - existing industries were converted to wartime production and huge factories were built to produce supplies for those fighting abroad. People back at home supported government rationing of so many basic items like sugar, meat, and coffee. They also supported the raising of both corporate and personal income taxes to fund the war effort. They are known as the greatest generation for their actions and sacrifices.
Today, the scientific community is calling on us all to make big changes quickly to address “the biggest threat facing humanity today.” They are saying that the entire global community must act immediately to prevent warming levels that will reach tipping points that will greatly escalate deaths, disease, destruction and world instability. Scientists are telling us that the actions that we take today will impact the world for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years.
It’s a pretty safe bet that we can rise to the occasion. That we will make the needed changes and form new habits and become the next greatest generations. With regards to reducing electricity consumption, most of the changes we must personally make won’t even require a great amount of effort, and they will save us money, be better for our health, and lead to cleaner air and water.
But people will only act if they understand the urgency of our present circumstances.
And Georgia Power must play a central role in communicating this urgency.
Inform Georgians that they can help reduce peak energy demand and prevent the need for new fossil fuel plants.
The Edison Electric Institute, an association that represents all U.S. investor-owned electric companies, has already created a very informative booklet presenting over 100 small and large ways for customers to reduce energy consumption. But these are presented in the context of saving money, not in the context of helping to save the planet and its inhabitants.
Georgians should be told that reducing their energy consumption, and changing some of their remaining consumption to off peak hours, would help prevent the need to invest in more fossil fuel plants and fossil fuel energy sourcing. And they should be informed that this is a critical component of meeting international scientific greenhouse gas emission reduction targets in the timeframe that will help limit even more dangerous levels of global warming.
This message can easily be sent in print and/or digital form to schools to reach students and parents, to neighborhood associations and churches to reach people within their communities, to businesses and offices.
And we have reached out to instructors at the Savannah School of Art and Design to see if they would be willing to help create video messaging. They have responded that they would be excited and honored to participate in such an important effort.
Georgia Power should also increase incentives for people who successfully limit their energy consumption, provide more rebates for those who purchase energy saving devices, and provide more funding for programs that help elderly and low income customers to insulate their homes.
Please ACT NOW to require Georgia Power to invest more heavily in Demand Side Management, educating Georgia citizens about our climate emergency and how together we can take actions to help prevent more warming.
You must act now. Later is too late.
A few last comments.
I have just a few last comments before another student will make some closing remarks.
First, we hope that it has been clear that when we refer to Georgia Power or Southern Company we are meaning the high level executives who make energy sourcing decisions. We are very thankful for the many hard working employees of both companies who use their knowledge, talents and skills to provide us with reliable power. We feel that they should be an integral part of the clean energy transition.
Second, as a nation we can’t sit back and wait for others to act. We have benefited from decades of inaction at the cost of others for too long. Historically, the United States has contributed more greenhouse gas emissions than any other country. By far. We are still the number two annual contributor.
Georgia Power’s recent IRP proposal does not make the grade. Literally. In the “Dirty Truth About Fossil Fuel Utility Pledges”, the authors rated the plans of 64 utility companies. Georgia Power was one of only 16 that received an “F” for theirs.
A Rocky Mountain Institute analysis also confirms that the Georgia 2022 IRP falls short of reaching the 2050 net zero goal. And the article and analysis was published in March of 2022, before the new gas projects were proposed in the updated 2022 IRP proposal.
Georgia Power can and must do better.
And they must act now. Later is too late.
Since we’ve been very young, we have been told to pick up after ourselves, to clean up our own messes. In its latest IRP request, Georgia Power is definitely not taking action to help clean up this huge climate mess that they have helped to create. They are acting as if it is business as usual. Maybe they will start taking responsibility soon, due to a combination of regulation and policy that requires them to do so, or because of public and stockholder pressure, or even because of an attack of conscience. But the scientific community is clear: we must take rapid action now. That includes both Georgia Power and Georgia citizens. Later is too late.
You can help get Georgia Power to take the right actions in the essential time frame. Actually, you're the only 5 people in Georgia who can. Cities and counties across Georgia are committing to reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, investing money and energy to do so. But they don’t have the authority to make Georgia Power provide them with the clean electricity that is essential for reaching those goals. You do.
The 5 of you are in positions of incredible responsibility and power and opportunity. Under your direction, Georgia Power can become a shining example. Commissioner Pridemore, in your new position as president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, you will have the opportunity to use your influence to encourage other regulators and utilities to follow Georgia Power’s lead.
Georgia Power wants you to believe that they have no choice. That they must increase natural gas sourcing and infrastructure, and potentially keep coal plants running for longer, in order to keep the lights on. That is simply false. There are many choices they can make when sourcing our electricity that will keep the power on. The choices Georgia Power is presenting now may be the easiest given their current business model. They may be the most profitable for their company. But they are definitely not the best choices for Georgia’s economy and the safety of its people. Especially the younger generations, who will be dealing with the consequences of those choices for decades.
We aren’t here today as experts, versed in the climate science and solutions. We are here to point you to the experts. We are asking that you listen to the worldwide scientific community that is sending out both calls to action and proffering solutions.
Georgia Power’s failure to align their policies and practices with what the science shows is required to avoid catastrophic harm to people and the planet is a colossal dereliction of duty and a mounting liability risk.
Please, fulfill your duty. Act to keep us safe. Exercise your authority to require Georgia Power to make heavy investments in clean renewable energy, battery storage, and demand side management. Not in additional fossil fuels that will only make the problem worse.
You must act now. Later is too late.