Georgia Power CEO Paul Bowers Offers His Thoughts on Georgia's Energy Sector Outlook Engineering Georgia Magazine was honored to sit down recently with Paul Bowers, Chairman, President and CEO of Georgia Power. As CEO of the largest subsidiary of Southern Company (which is itself one of the nation’s largest producers of electric power), Bowers clearly has his finger on the pulse of Georgia’s energy sector economy. Prior to his current position, he was Chief Financial Officer of Southern Company, where he was named one of the industry’s Top Three CFOs in America by Institutional Investor Magazine. A 36-year veteran of the Southern Company system, Paul Bowers is undoubtedly one of the state’s leading authorities on the future of the energy sector and its potential impact on the engineering industry in Georgia. His impressive career, academic achievements and public service on a number of boards (including serving as the 2015 Chairman of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Board of Regents and member of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s Energy Policy Council) uniquely position him to lend his observations on the state’s economic forecast for the energy space. 1 WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE CURRENT STATE OF GEORGIA’S ECONOMY AND OUR OVERALL ECONOMIC PROSPECTS? WHAT IS YOUR ECONOMIC OUTLOOK FOR THE ENERGY SECTOR IN GEORGIA? We are seeing signs of vitality in Georgia’s economy. Georgia’s job and population growth are outpacing that of the U.S. on a whole, and the state is in a great position to continue this trend. Georgia continues to be attractive to new companies due to the constructive partnership between the business community and our elected leaders, as well as our transportation infrastructure, low energy costs and strong workforce. All of these factors will keep Georgia competitive – bringing more jobs and economic development to the state. From Georgia Power’s perspective, we have a unique view into the economic outlook of Georgia. We monitor changes in the industrial, commercial and residential sectors of the electricity market. We’ve seen the industrial sector lead the way with increases in the stone/clay/glass and lumber segments, indicating the momentum in new construction as the economy strengthens. Our residential customer growth is reaching pre-recession levels and commercial growth is starting to move, especially in the Atlanta area. Strong job growth, particularly in the technology and professional business services sectors, is leading to more office development, and the desire for “live, work and play” communities is driving an uptick in mixeduse development. 2 WHAT MAJOR CHANGES DO YOU FORESEE (ECONOMIC, ENVIRONMENTAL, POLITICAL, TECHNOLOGICAL OR OTHERS) THAT WILL BE IMPACT THE ENERGY SECTOR OVER THE NEXT FIVE TO TEN YEARS, AND HOW WILL THEY CHANGE THE WAY YOU DO BUSINESS? There are many external factors that could impact the way we serve our customers. Georgia Power’s approach to planning for the future is customercentric and long-term. We evaluate all factors to ensure that we continue to provide safe, clean, reliable and affordable electricity to best serve every customer fairly. We’ve already seen significant impacts to how we generate power as a result of environmental regulations, and we expect future regulations to continue to play a role in the way we plan for the next two decades. We want to anticipate the needs of our customers and continually introduce new products and services that meet those needs. For example, we recently rolled out a new solar program that builds on our existing efforts to provide resources and expertise for customers in all areas of energy, and offer solar sales and installation services under an unregulated business unit for those who want to install solar. We are also expanding our nuclear fleet with the construction of two new nuclear units, Vogtle 3 and 4, which will serve as reliable base-load generation with low fuel costs for 60-80 years. 3 WHAT CAPITAL PROJECTS OR INVESTMENTS WILL GEORGIA POWER BE FOCUSING ON OVER THE NEXT FIVE TO 10 YEARS? Georgia Power is a capital intensive business. We will invest between $1.5 and $2.5 billion per year over the next five years in a number of areas. These areas include our transmission and distribution infrastructure, the completion of Vogtle 3 and 4 (see Feature article on pages 34-39), and the expansion of our renewable portfolio, as well as modifications to our generating units to ensure reliability for our customers, to support growth and to comply with laws and regulations. 4 HOW WILL GEORGIA POWER’S MIX OF SOURCES AND METHODS OF POWER GENERATION CHANGE IN THE FUTURE? Georgia Power’s generation is based on a 20-year planning process, the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). We file the plan with the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) every three years. The IRP considers economic conditions, fuel prices and technology costs, as well as existing and future environmental regulations to ensure we can continue to provide the most reliable and economic fuel mix for our customers. We believe a balanced, diverse fuel portfolio is necessary to give us flexibility to keep prices low and reliability high. By the end of the year, we will have retired about 2,000 megawatts of coaland oil-fired generation in Georgia. We are expanding our solar generation significantly and expect to have approximately 1,000 megawatts of solar by the end of next year, as well as substantially increasing our nuclear generation with the addition of 2,200 megawatts from Vogtle 3 and 4. All of these efforts are a result of long-term planning and coordination with the PSC. At the same time, we are conducting proprietary research on new technology, including solar and energy storage options, to evaluate how new products can deliver value to our customers. 5 AS A BUSINESS LEADER WHO IS FREQUENTLY ENGAGED IN PUBLIC POLICY DISCUSSIONS WITH OUR STATE’S POLITICAL LEADERS, WHAT TWO OR THREE ACTIONS COULD THOSE LEADERS TAKE THAT WOULD HAVE THE BIGGEST POSITIVE IMPACT ON GEORGIA’S OVERALL ECONOMY? As leaders, we remain focused on education. It is part of our role to make a difference in not only the economy of Georgia, but the quality of life for our students who are looking to fulfill their dreams of a job of their choosing. We all must be engaged in monitoring the effectiveness of education funding, in the standards to which our students are held and in creating interest in the curriculums that will give students new opportunities. At Georgia Power, we focus on closing the gap in developing the skills needed for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers. Companies across Georgia and the U.S. identify a significant need for more employees with strong STEM education and skills. Georgia Power’s PowerED program includes several initiatives that aim to increase interest and knowledge around the importance of STEM skills. We employ in-classroom educators who are in Georgia schools every day, informing students and teachers about careers in the electric industry – that program has reached about 280,000 students to date. We also support programs that provide internships within the company for science, math and technology teachers, and we have provided over 350 first-year teachers with $1,000 grants. A properly prepared and trained workforce is essential to economic development and our state’s prosperity. It is important for businesses and leaders of Georgia to invest in our students today to prepare them for tomorrow. 6 WHAT IS THE ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU WOULD SHARE WITH AN ENGINEERING COMPANY THAT IS LOOKING TO EXPAND INTO THE ENERGY SPACE? WHAT CAN ENGINEERING FIRMS DO TO PROVIDE BETTER VALUE AND SERVICE WHEN ENGAGED ON GEORGIA POWER PROJECTS? Technology in the energy industry is continuing to evolve at a rapid pace. Engineering companies who embrace technological advancement and are creative in finding new, economically viable solutions for consumers will bode well in the industry. We continue to stress to companies that they should find their niche, know our business and understand where they can add value. We set high standards for our internal employees in terms of commitment and performance; we expect those working with us to strive for that same level of excellence. We can benefit from an engineering workforce that pushes the status quo and brings new and fresh ideas to the issues we are trying to solve in a way that will benefit our customers the most. At the end of the day, we want to deliver safe, clean, reliable and affordable energy to our customers. If you can help us do that, then we have an interest.
Published by American Council of Engineering Companies of Georgia. View All Articles.
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