The kind of across-the-grid power failure that paralyzed Texas during a snowstorm this winter is unlikely to happen in Georgia.
Tricia Pridemore, a member of the Georgia Public Service Commission, told Rome business leaders Thursday that the state has a diversity of providers and power sources. It’s an intentional effort on the part of the PSC to make sure the electrical grid remains stable.
“I’m never going to say that what happened in Texas would never happen here,” Pridemore said. “I can tell you — the number of safeguards we’ve put in the system to keep something like that from happening to us, they’re immense.”
She said that, in addition to Georgia Power, there are municipal systems across the state as well as 41 electric membership cooperatives. And all of the counties that border Tennessee purchase electricity from the Tennessee Valley Authority.
While the PSC also oversees natural gas and — to an extent — telecommunications in the state, Pridemore estimated that as much as 75% of her time is spent dealing with issues related to electricity.
“We rely on this diversified portfolio of natural gas, coal, nuclear, solar and hydro,” Pridemore said, noting that the solar program has doubled over the last three years.
The commissioner spent some time responding to questions posed by members of the Rome Floyd Chamber.
She said that close to 43% of the state’s power comes from natural gas now and 26% is still produced from coal. Another 17% is from nuclear sources, although that’s slated to go up to about 25% when two new units at Plant Vogtle come on line in the next couple of years. About 9% is from solar and about 5% comes from hydropower.
Pridemore also addressed natural gas pipelines, saying the PSC takes management of the system very seriously because of safety concerns.
The PSC approved the Atlanta Gas Light pipeline project to serve the International Paper plant in Coosa, Pridemore said, but had nothing to do with the selection of the route through Rome.
She also said a recent unanimous decision from the PSC ended a 17-year controversy by ordering that cable television and internet providers could lease access to an EMC pole for $1 for the next six years.
Pridemore said she hopes the ruling will enhance internet broadband service across the state.
“Whether it’s telemedicine, online schooling, you name it, we’ve got to provide higher speed service all across Georgia,” she said.
“I was very proud this year that Gov. (Brian) Kemp put in his budget — for the very first time, our state has initiated a $10 million grant program to assist communities who have no connectivity or very little connectivity to high speed,” she added.
Offering a glimpse into the future, Pridemore said the PSC was glad to see Georgia Power included several million dollars for electric vehicle charging infrastructure in its most recent three-year plan.
“We have seen a big push by the American auto manufacturers to go to more EVs, as well as what we’re seeing out of Washington,” Pridemore said. We have to not only protect the electricity system but also provide more wattage capability that’s closer to where those charging stations are put.”