Tricia Pridemore is running for re-election to the Georgia Public Service Commission. She made a campaign stop in Bartow County last week where she spoke with The Daily Tribune News.
Pridemore was appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal in January to finish the term of Stan Weiss, who retired as the District 5 representative to the Georgia Public Service Commission. Prior to serving on the PSC, she was executive director of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development where she fostered partnerships with the state’s leading industries to identify workforce needs and encourage training for careers in the infrastructure, manufacturing and energy fields through the Go Build Georgia initiative.
Pridemore chairs the facilities protection subcommittee of the PSC, which oversees pipeline safety and damage prevention for energy and telecommunications structures throughout the state. She is also a member of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.
The Daily Tribune News (DTN): Welcome to Bartow County. Please enlighten those of us that aren't quite sure what the Public Service Commission does.
Tricia Pridemore (TP): Thank you. I'm happy to be here. The Public Service Commission is responsible for regulating utilities, namely Georgia Power, Atlanta Gas Light and the 19 gas marketers. We are also responsible for regulating energy production, landline telephones and railroads.
DTN: It is hard to travel anywhere in the county without seeing Plant Bowen's cooling towers. How much does Plant Bowen contribute to the overall electric usage in North Georgia?
TP: Not just in north Georgia, but the whole state. Plant Bowen is a very valuable piece of our overall energy production. It is the state's largest coal facility, and for every 15 seconds of operability, it electrifies the average-size Georgia home for a year. I hope when people ride by and see those towers, they will stop and think about that.
DTN: As you know, in 2017, work came to a stop at Plant Vogtle after Westinghouse Electric filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy due to billions in losses from nuclear reactor construction projects. Last week, it was announced that construction would resume. What is your take on that?
TP: Plant Vogtle, namely units 3 and 4 — we already have units 1 and 2 online — is scheduled to come online in 2021 or 2022. In December, the project was approved by the previous commission to continue after the Westinghouse bankruptcy, which was a facet no one saw coming. Whoever would have thought Westinghouse would go bankrupt? After the bankruptcy, there were a lot of modifications to be done, both in the schedule and the budget. I am proud and impressed by the way the partners —Georgia Power, Oglethorpe Power, Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and Dalton Utilities — handled it. I'm not a commissioner who wants to get into the thick of partner negotiations. I just want to let them run their businesses. It's my job to oversee the the Georgia Power portion and make sure Georgians aren't paying too much in energy rates."
DTN: What do you see becoming the major source of future energy?
TP: I am not a person that believes carbon is a contributor on a wide scale to any type of global warming, so I want to see a continuation of the use of coal and gas. We know the overall cost of natural gas can't continue to remain as low as it is now, so I see a future in nuclear power. Nations like France have done very well using nuclear power. Today, 16 percent of the state's power is base load nuclear. When units 3 and 4 come online, it will increase to 25 percent. On the renewable front, solar is very exciting. We are one of the top 10 states in solar energy production and we in the PSC have worked really smart because we have done a lot of it through community solar projects that tap directly into the grid and we aren't subsidizing solar panels off the backs of taxpayers.