JAMES Magazine Online: Georgia Leading the Way On Renewable Energy

Tim Echols

Thursday, December 21st, 2023

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A new day for nuclear has arrived. The prospects of carbon-free 24/7 baseload power, a massive workforce and lucrative supply chain means billions of dollars and gigawatts of electricity.   And in Georgia, it is right on time. Let me explain.


First, let’s start with emissions, and its influence. COP28, the United Nations Climate Conference, is wrapping up in Dubai and the message from Europe and North America is different than at previous iterations of this event.  The message—baseload nuclear power is essential to reducing carbon emissions while ensuring reliability. The data and jury are in—without an astronomical growth in nuclear power plants, a 1.5C reduction in planet temperature cannot be attained.

World leaders in Dubai are saying renewables alone are insufficient for meeting decarbonization goals. How do they know this?  Because vast sums of money have been appropriated and spent trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with intermittent renewables—and the effort has fallen short.  Yet, the clock is ticking on these national goals with 2050 less than three decades away.

But there have been other factors hitting global ratepayers in their wallet. Practically all of Europe boycotted Russian gas because of its attack on Ukraine forcing them to import American LNG (liquefied natural gas), driving up prices in Europe and in America.  That European price-spike was staggering and created a political backlash not seen since the Arab Oil Embargo in the early 70’s.  According to French officials, public support for nuclear doubled during that time, giving President Macron the confidence to reverse his 2017 commitment to reduce France’s dependence on nuclear and publicly support an initiative calling for France to build at least 13 large reactors across the country.  Other European countries like Poland and Sweden are committing to the next generation of nuclear technology too, particularly countries that depend on Russian energy.

Finally, the rush to electrify cars, trucks, delivery vans, and home heating puts gigawatts of electric load in the queue. Add to that the green hydrogen craze, the most recent “shiny object” that is on the rise everywhere, viewed by many as the way to clean-up the Class 8 truck fleet and get rid of diesel emissions. Finally, district heating, common in New England, and industrial heating at factories create a new opportunity for nuclear.  Don’t forget about data centers and crypto-mining facilities too.  All need electricity.

We proved in Georgia that it could be done with our long-term investment in Plant Vogtle. Let’s hope other states follow our lead and move nuclear forward. 

Tim Echols is Vice-Chair of the Georgia PSC and led the motion to keep Vogtle going after the Westinghouse bankruptcy.