PACE to Georgia PSC: Vogtle Nuclear Units Important to Customers

Later this morning, PACE will deliver the following message to the Georgia Public Service Commission about its support of nuclear power and the completion of two new nuclear units at Plant Vogtle in east Georgia.


In October of this year, PACE wrote about the completion of TVA’s Watts Bar Unit 2 and about the progress of Plant Vogtle, two important nuclear energy projects in the Southeast.

We wrote specifically about an agreement between Georgia PSC staff and Georgia Power Company, telling our readers that the agreement is a positive development as Georgia Power completes two new nuclear units at Vogtle.

We wrote in October

“[The agreement] puts the new nuclear project on stable footing and helps to ensure that Units 3 and 4 of Vogtle come online as expected, adding another 2,200 megawatts of carbon-free electricity that will be much needed in the future.”

We wrote that two months ago and we are here today to renew the message that this agreement is good for customers and for the future of nuclear power.

Affordable, reliable, and stable electricity is a hallmark of power in the Southeast and specifically in Georgia. Nuclear power is an important part of that mix and will become even more important as we enter a future with more restrictions on carbon emissions. That is why PACE continues to support nuclear power, both existing units and new construction; because nuclear power means stable rates and affordable electricity for families and businesses.

The evidence is clear that nuclear units nationwide have meant billions of dollars in savings to families and businesses. Those units have also played an important role in the decrease of U.S. carbon emissions in past years. And all of this with an incredible safety record without a single fatality.

Our nation needs nuclear power, as does this region. A lower-carbon future requires nuclear power. Nuclear power works. Nuclear power is safe.

In this context, the two new 110-megawatt units under construction at Vogtle are vital. They will increase Georgia’s nuclear power generation by more than 50%. And they will do so for a very long time – likely into the 22nd century.

They will produce power for a region that continues to grow and flourish. A Southeast with more manufacturing that depends on highly reliable, competitively priced power. These two new units will work alongside units in Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, and North Carolina to ensure that electrons flow when businesses need them and when families flip their light switches.

The PSC has an important obligation to look into the future. And with the population of Atlanta growing, and Georgia’s overall power demand growing with it, that obligation includes providing a strong foundation for future electricity generation. We believe that foundation should include the new units at Vogtle.

We concluded in October –

“As we have with other nuclear projects such as TVA’s Watts Bar, PACE fully supports the continued development of Units 3 and 4 at Plant Vogtle. We believe that nuclear power will be an essential part of meeting the region’s power demands in a carbon restrained policy environment. For that reason, we believe that the agreement reached by the Georgia PSC staff and Georgia Power is a positive step forward. If approved by the full commission, it would be a win for the future of nuclear power and a win for Georgia ratepayers…”


Report: Oklahoma Depends on Wind

In April of this year, PACE became involved in discussions over Oklahoma’s support of the wind industry. Faced with a large budget deficit, lawmakers in that state were considering eliminating state support for the commercial wind industry, which ranks fourth nationally in terms of production. Oklahoma today gets about a sixth of its electricity generation from wind power.

While we don’t support the idea of energy subsidies in general, Oklahoma presents a special case. We wrote in April that the wind industry in Oklahoma reflects our philosophy of building energy resources where they work the best. In addition, the wind industry in Oklahoma returns far more benefits to consumers and local governments than it costs taxpayers. State support of Oklahoma’s wind industry is a win-win for the industry and the state’s citizens alike, and helps the region at large cope with federal rules that limit emissions.

Now, a new report from PACE proves that thinking, outlining the various benefits of the wind industry to Oklahoma. The report, titled Oklahoma Depends on Wind, explains that wind power in Oklahoma is set to save electricity rate payers nearly $2 billion, help stabilize power prices in the long term, and has created more than 7,000 jobs in the state.

Read the Report Here

Just as important, wind projects in Oklahoma will generate a billion dollars in ad valorem tax revenue and will create another $1.2 billion for Oklahoma’s school districts. This important revenue stream helps support local Oklahoma communities, returning far more benefits than it costs state taxpayers. The report includes an appendix that lists estimated tax revenue from wind for every Oklahoma county that is home to wind projects.

“In the larger picture, Oklahoma’s support of its wind industry is a good investment for government and a win for customers,” explains PACE Executive Director Lance Brown. “We are recommending to state lawmakers that they allow the state’s support to run its course without prematurely pulling the plug on this net benefit for Oklahoma.”


Discussions About Future of Solar Far From Over

In an opinion piece published earlier this week in Utility Dive, David Pomerantz, executive director of the Energy and Policy Institute, draws a number of conclusions about what the failure of Florida’s Amendment One means to the future of solar power. Tying the Amendment One vote to Mr. Trump’s election, Pomerantz reasons that the Amendment One vote shows that the public is fully dedicated to the robust future of residential solar power. Those are shaky conclusions, though, and Pomerantz would do well to abandon the solar industry’s talking points and face some basic realities.

Solar Panel

If passed, Florida’s Amendment One would have enshrined in the state’s constitution the right to solar rooftop ownership, but also provided key protections for consumers when it comes to ripoffs and malpractice. It also would have assured that non-solar customers are never asked to pay more for electricity to subsidize others who choose to install solar at their homes. Those are priorities PACE has backed for years, from net metering issues in Arizona to solar issues in Mississippi and Louisiana. Our position has been that the future of solar power must include safeguards for the equitable treatment of all customers – both solar and non-solar – and must model itself in a way that is economically sustainable.

PACE was proud to back Amendment One in Florida because we believed strongly that the measure would put into practice the principles we’ve argued for across the country. Unfortunately, the ballot measure did not gain enough votes, but what conclusions can we really draw from the vote on Amendment One? In the end, more people voted for the amendment than against it. Pomerantz would like to paint the measure’s failure as a referendum for doubling down on rooftop solar, but that seems a stretch. After all, a majority of Floridians actually supported the amendment, but the requirement for passage of a constitutional amendment is set high at sixty percent vote.

Second, Pomerantz’s piece wrongly alleges that Amendment One would have hurt the future of solar in Florida, which simply isn’t true. While he bemoans what he deems a paltry amount of solar power being generated in Florida, the truth is that Florida is top of the list in solar power production among states without a renewable energy mandate. With the market left to work on its own, Florida’s solar power industry has prospered. Just as important, solar power in Florida has grown in a way that has balanced the desires of solar rooftop owners with the needs of customers who haven’t chosen – or can’t afford to choose – solar for their homes.

Sure, Florida could follow the lead of Massachusetts and New Jersey, the two states Pomerantz admires for their solar policies, but what would that mean on a broader scale for Florida’s electricity ratepayers? After all, the author fails to point out that Massachusetts and New Jersey have some of the highest residential power prices in the nation. Not as high as California, of course, the state Pomerantz calls home.

It is not unreasonable for customers, or the utilities that serve them, to engage in a public debate about how residential solar power will integrate smoothly with the grid and into existing ways of regulating and pricing electricity. Those are important questions that deserve to be asked, especially if we are discussing the idea of substantially more customer-owned solar power. For example, the cost shifting to non-solar customers that Pomerantz chooses to put in quotes, as if such cost shifting isn’t real and harmful, deserves close scrutiny, especially since a landmark study from MIT released last year describes the phenomenon of cost shifting in detail.

Deserving scrutiny, too, is the author’s assertion about the vast benefits to the grid of more rooftop solar, a popular talking point that nonetheless remains murky and largely unsubstantiated.

Passing a constitutional amendment in Florida is difficult. Passing any amendment in the midst of an historically abrasive and emotion-infused presidential election is even more difficult. That’s why reading the vote against Amendment One, a vote that didn’t break the fifty percent mark, as a groundswell of support for an unregulated rooftop solar market or a referendum against the state’s utilities seems a bit silly.

Solar issues do deserve more public conversation and debate. They deserve to be discussed in a way that doesn’t just take into account the desire of the for-profit solar industry to grow and the hope for solar home owners to be compensated for the power they produce, but that also considers the wishes of non-solar customers to be treated fairly and the concerns of those who are responsible for balancing the grid and ensuring power is available when it’s needed. Customers, utilities, and advocacy groups all deserve a seat at the table, because they all have valid concerns and legitimate hopes about the future of solar.

Millions of Florida voters said no to Amendment One, but even more said yes. Instead of drawing wild conclusions about what that vote signified, the more productive approach is to listen more closely. The discussion is far from over.