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CEO Column: Nuclear: Critical element of PowerSouth’s future energy mix


As the rest of the country relies more on natural gas for electricity generation, PowerSouth is expanding the cooperative’s already-diverse power supply mix with a nuclear power purchase, adding flexibility and good economic value.
 
PowerSouth’s generation plan has succeeded, in large part, due to its diverse fuel mix. Using a variety of fuels and technologies to generate electricity balances the benefits and risks associated with each source, including reliability, economics and environmental factors.
 
Today, PowerSouth uses natural gas, coal and hydro to meet member energy needs. To further diversify the generation blend, PowerSouth will purchase 125 megawatts of nuclear capacity from the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia for 20 years beginning in 2019. 
 
Vogtle Units 3 and 4, currently under construction near Augusta, Ga., will be among the first nuclear units built in the U.S. in the last three decades. 
 
“This is the best nuclear technology to date,” said Dixie EC President and CEO Gary Harrison, who serves as Corporate Planning & Power Supply Committee Chairman on PowerSouth’s Board of Trustees. “It is not only safe, but it also has no carbon footprint.” 
 
Adding nuclear power to the energy mix serves PowerSouth’s members’ interests well over the long term — balancing fuel costs and managing risk by using a variety of generation technologies.
 
A proven technology that produces zero greenhouse gas emissions, nuclear energy can relieve uncertainty associated with coal and natural gas prices. 
 
Like coal-fired power plants, nuclear plants are traditional “always-on” generators, providing large amounts of electricity around the clock. In fact, nuclear power plants have the highest average capacity factor of any electricity source.
 
Coal-fired generation faces continued regulatory challenges, such as the EPA’s recent Clean Power Plan. 
 
Natural gas is a valuable resource, but history has shown that leaning too heavily on gas could cause utilities to deal with unpredictability in pricing and availability. 
 
Utilities’ use of renewables is increasing nationwide, but as intermittent sources they cannot displace the need for traditional baseload generation sources.
 
“People like renewables because they emit no carbon dioxide,” Harrison said, “but they are such small pieces of the puzzle. Nuclear is the perfect addition to our mix because it can provide the magnitude of energy we need but with the same zero-carbon output.”
 
PowerSouth’s move toward nuclear began in 2008 when PowerSouth’s Board of Trustees adopted a strategic plan to promote a diversified power supply strategy, including the flexibility to adapt quickly to changes in global energy and financial markets, as well as future legislation governing emissions.
 
This article was written by PowerSouth’s Communications department, as President and CEO Gary Smith enjoys a respite from writing to focus on issues important to PowerSouth, its members and those they serve. 


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