"The numbers don't look good," Wheeler said. She explained that the future for the plant, which is essentially a peaking power producer as opposed to a continuously operating plant, won't be known until the company completes the 2019 Integrated Resource Plan. "The staffing level is considerably lower than it was two years ago, even a year ago," Wheeler said. Later, another member of the Georgia Power delegation at the meeting said the plant has just 41 full time employees now.
Georgia Power cut about 80 jobs from the workforce at Plant Hammond in the spring of 2017, about a third of its workforce at that time. The numbers have been dwindling ever since. Some of those employees were transitioned to other positions within the company.
The change in the mix of generating fuel, a big increase in use of natural gas versus coal, and the low cost of the gas as opposed to the coal, has a lot to do with the limited use of Hammond today.
Hammond has been in commercial production since 1954 but its capacity has been reducing since the price of natural gas dropped around 2007.
One Rotarian asked if Hammond could be converted to burn gas in the future and Wheeler said it would require a "huge capital investment." She explained the plant is not on a major gas line and that extending one to serve the plant would be extremely expensive.
Terry said the diversification of the Georgia Power fuel portfolio is important to everyone across the state in terms of making power both affordable and reliable.
"Some of it is environmental regulations and some of it is the cost of fuel," Terry said.
Terry said that customers across the Georgia Power grid are enjoying a series of refunds that are related to issues related to Plant Vogtle and Trump administration tax cuts. She explained that taxes are embedded in the Georgia Power rate structure and that as the corporate tax rates were cut, "That money is being refunded to you."
Georgia Power paid approximately $1.2 billion in federal, state and local taxes in 2017, about $483 per customer.
Terry said a new Automated Meter Infrastructure — smart meters — have greatly enhanced the ability of the utility to cope with power outages and keep the outage to as short a period of time as possible.
"You rely on more and more electronics than you ever have before,” Terry said.
The AMI system and a Self Healing Network system that makes it easier to identify outages has helped make the system more reliable than ever.
"We need to stay ahead of your wants and needs as a customer," Terry told the community leaders.