Jun 21, 2022 - News

Coal, methane power plants top Georgia's "dirtiest" list

An aerial stock photograph of Plant Bowen, a coal-fired power plant near Cartersville, and a nearby body of water
Georgia Power's Plant Bowen in Euharlee, about 40 miles northwest of Atlanta, photographed in 2009. Photo: Karen Bleier/AFP via Getty Images.

The top 10 "dirtiest" power plants in Georgia release as many emissions as 7.7 million cars every year, according to a new report from Environment Georgia.

Driving the news: Released Monday, the nonprofit's report ranks power plants that generate the most carbon emissions every year.

Details: Plants Bowen near Cartersville, McDonough in Cobb County and Scherer in Macon — all Georgia Power plants — top the statewide list and also scored spots on the national ranking (No. 23, 34 and 36, respectively).

  • The top 10 generate 57% of the state's electricity but are responsible for more than 90% of the power sector's carbon emissions, says the report, which calls on policymakers and regulators to limit global warming pollution.

What they're saying: Two of the plants still primarily burn coal for electricity. The rest burn primarily methane, a lower-carbon fuel source by comparison.

  • However, methane has a higher global warming potential than carbon dioxide, and leaks contribute to climate change, Environment Georgia says.

The other side: Oglethorpe Power, which operates and/or has ownership stakes in several of the plants, will continue to transition its energy portfolio to meet “reasonable carbon reduction goals,” spokesperson Blair Romero says. 40% of its generation will be emissions-free when new Plant Vogtle reactors turn on, she says.

  • Georgia Power owns Plants Bowen, McDonough, McIntosh, Yates and some units at Scherer. The utility plans to double its renewable portfolio by 6,000 MW by 2035, says spokesperson John Kraft, and to retire its coal-burning units except for Plant Bowen (No. 1 on Environment Georgia's list).
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