The frigid start to 2014 has been positive news for one utility company.
Georgia Power President and CEO Paul Bowers told the Lanier-Forsyth Rotary Club on Tuesday morning that the weather “puts a big smile on our face.”
Not from a revenue standpoint, Bowers said, but rather from watching crews tackle difficult situations to provide reliable service under extreme circumstances.
“That intensity is what really I’m proud I represent, that professionalism in what they do every day,” he said.
In his remarks to Rotarians, Bowers highlighted the company’s employees, 1,200 of whom recently spent their day off volunteering in the communities they serve.
“We’re better than our bottom line,” he said. “We want to provide a service more than just electric, but get engaged in the communities to make them better because we’re there.”
He also gave a directive to Rotarians, most of whom are local business owners. He talked about the salaries of basic Georgia Power jobs, noting that welders make $30 an hour and electricians earn $25 an hour. Despite the attractive wages, many applicants don’t have the abilities.
“We’ve got to invest in [students],” he said. “We as leaders in this state have got to hold a standard and say we expect this coming out of these schools.
“Engage, be involved, make a difference. Because there are going to be jobs in this state that kids can fill, they’ve just got to be ready.”
Bowers also talked about the company’s future, particularly with nuclear energy.
At the company’s Plant Votgle facility in Waynesboro, south of Augusta, two nuclear units have been operational since the late 1980s. A third and fourth unit are under construction, with completion dates expected by the end of 2017 and ’18.
While energy will continue to come from a variety of sources, nuclear has “got to be the way forward,” Bowers said.
When the two new units are completed, Votgle will be “the largest nuclear site in America.” But the process, which began in 2004, hasn’t been easy, according to Bowers.
Licensing was delayed as a result of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster in Japan and that delay added new regulations and raised costs.
Hearing from Georgia Power’s president pleased Kathleen Kenworthy, whose engineering experience includes working on designs for a nuclear power plant in Illinois.
That facility was never built due to cost and government regulations, she said, adding that is was exciting to hear a success story.
“I’m very impressed,” she said. “It’s really difficult to do what they’re doing because our government creates the rules after the fact and then they have to back up and comply in the duration of time that they’re building these plants.
“People would be more supportive of nuclear if they just understood it better.”