Georgia Gives Coal The Cold Shoulder

State Economy

The population of the state of Georgia is approximately 10.8 million people[1]. Georgia is the 8th most populated state in the United States.

In 2020, Georgia’s economy was ranked 9th in the United States in gross domestic product (GDP)[2]. The state’s economy is dependent on the agriculture, aerospace, textile, timber, paper, biofuel, beverage, and tourism industries[3].

Environment Policies

Georgia is one of only 13 states that has neither a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) nor a renewable energy goal[4].

In January 2021, Georgia utilities used natural gas (47.7%), nuclear energy (29.6%), coal (12.2%), and  renewable energy (10.5%) to generate electricity[5]. Hydropower, solar, and biomass are the primary sources of renewable energy in the state.

Georgia’s reliance on inexpensive natural gas and renewable energy contribute to state’s below average cost of electricity. In January 2021, the average cost of residential electricity in Georgia was 10.94¢ per kWh, compared to the national average of 12.69¢ per kWh.

Recent renewable energy developments in Georgia include:

  • 20 MW Solar Project – In January 2021, American solar company, Silicon Ranch Corporation commissioned the Odom Solar Farm, which is located in Colquitt County in southwest Georgia.
  • 25 MW Solar Project – In January 2021, American infrastructure company, IEA commissioned the Appling Solar Farm, which is located in Appling County in southeast Georgia.
  • 100 MW Solar Project – In January 2021, IEA is continuing work on the Lumpkin Solar Park, which is located in Lumpkin County in northern Georgia. The project is scheduled to be commissioned by year-end 2021.
  • 200 MW Solar Projects – In March 2021, Georgia cooperatives, Green Power EMC and Silicon Ranch Corporation commissioned three utility solar power projects in southern Georgia.
  • 200 MW Solar + 40 MW Energy Storage Project – German power company, RWE Renewables is continuing work on the Hickory Park solar plus energy storage project in the town of Baconton in the southern region of the state. The project is scheduled to be commissioned by year-end 2021.

Conclusion

Coal mining began in the northwestern region of Georgia in the 1830s[6]. Coal was initially used to fuel forges, furnaces, and steam engines. Georgia’s last coal mine closed in the 1980s. The coal used to fuel Georgia’s power plants is now brought by rail from Wyoming and Illinois.

In 2010, over 56% of Georgia’s electricity was generated from coal-fueled power plants[7]. In 2020, only 12.2% of the state’s electricity was generated from coal-fueled power plants. Why the decrease in the use of coal in Georgia?

  1. Pollution – Coal ash, the product of coal burned in a power plant contains arsenic, mercury, and lead; which are toxic. In 2019, coal ash was documented to have leaked into the ground water around 241 coal-fired plants in America[8].
  2. EconomicsThe cost to generate power from coal is more than double the cost to generate power from renewables, like solar.
  3. Climate Change Coal generates 30% to 40% more greenhouse gases than natural gas.

Escalating mining and railroad transportation costs make the cost of electricity from coal significantly more expensive than renewable energy or even natural gas. Utilities across the country have been closing coal-fueled power plants due to economic and environmental issues.

Georgia has significant renewable energy resources, including solar, biomass and offshore wind. Economics caused Georgia utilities to give coal, the cold shoulder and turn to natural gas. Economics and climate change are now causing Georgia utilities to now turn to clean, low cost, renewable energy.

 Jack Kerfoot

Website – “Our Energy Conundrum”

www.jackkerfoot.com

 

[1] Georgia Population 2021, World Population Review

[2] U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis

[3] What Are The Major Industries In Georgia, March 27, 2020

[4] National Conference of State Legislators – State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals, January 4, 2021

[5] U.S. Energy Information Agency – Georgia State Profile and Energy Estimates

[6] US Department of the Interior, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement – Georgia

[7] EIA, Electric Power Sector Consumption Estimates, Georgia 1960-2018

[8] Reuters, “Coal Ash Contaminates Groundwater Near Most U.S. Coal Plants: Study” by Valerie Volcovici, March 3, 2019

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