ATLANTA — Georgia Power Chairman, President and CEO Paul Bowers will retire next April after more than a decade leading the Atlanta-based utility, the company announced Thursday.
Bowers’ retirement will coincide with a key milestone at Georgia Power’s Plant Vogtle nuclear expansion project, the loading of fuel into the first of two new reactors being built at the site south of Augusta.
“It’s not a coincidence,” Bowers told Capitol Beat News Service Thursday. “That’s a signal that unit is ready to go commercial.”
Georgia Power’s Board of Directors has elected Chris Womack, executive vice president and president of external affairs at Georgia Power parent Southern Company, to succeed Bowers. Womack will begin serving as Georgia Power’s president Nov. 1, then take over the additional roles of chairman and CEO upon Bowers’ retirement.
Bowers has presided not only over the Plant Vogtle project but also has led Georgia Power’s transition toward relying less on coal for power generation and more on clean energy.
The utility currently gets 15% of its energy-generation portfolio from renewable sources and is heading toward 18% under a three-year plan the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) approved last year.
“Working with the commission, we’ll continue to add [renewable energy] taking advantage of new technological opportunities,” Womack said.
Womack joined Southern Company in 1988 and has held several leadership positions within the company and its subsidiaries, including stints at Georgia Power, Southern Company Generation and Savannah Electric. His resume also includes experience in human resources as a senior vice president at Southern Company, and he has served in a public relations role at Alabama Power.
“Chris checks all the boxes,” Bowers said. “He has developed into one of the great leaders of our company.”
Womack said getting units 3 and 4 at Plant Vogtle up and running will be a top priority. Approved by the PSC back in 2009, the project has been plagued with extensive cost overruns and lengthy delays caused in part by the bankruptcy of prime contractor Westinghouse.
However, Georgia Power has doggedly pursued completing the first new nuclear project to be built in the U.S. in decades, even as other utilities gave up after encountering technical problems with the next-generation Westinghouse AP1000 reactors.
Unit 3 is due to go into service in November of next year and Unit 4 is expected to follow one year later.
“Based on current projections, will have [Unit 3] online a couple of months early,” Bowers said.
Bowers joined Southern Company in 1979 at Gulf Power and has served as Georgia Power’s chairman, president and CEO for the past 11 years.