While Georgia is among 36 states that continue to be net importers of coal to generate electricity, the hydrocarbon is slowly being replaced by natural gas-fired power plants, according to a study released Tuesday by the Union of Concerned Scientists (USC).

37 STATES 37 states that are net importers of coal in 2012, which is the most recent set of data that was available. Photo: Union of Concerned Scientists

“Georgia’s dependence on coal generation and coal imports has been declining primarily as a result of a large-scale shift toward generation from lower-cost natural gas,” UCS said. “From 2008 to 2012, local generation in Georgia declined from 63 percent to 33 percent while natural gas generation more than tripled, from 10 percent to 35 percent.”

Geroia many states Georgia ranks third among 37 states for money spent on net coal imports. Photo: Union of Concerned Scientists

What's more, not only has there been an increase in lower-cost natural gas use to generate electricity, but Georgia Power, the state’s largest power provider, recently decided to retire more than 2,600 megawatts worth of old and inefficient coal generators.

Georgia is also looking to invest more in renewable energy and energy efficiency programs to help cut coal-fired power, while at the same time boosting the local economy.

The USC study points out that 37 states sent $19.4 billion out-of-state to import coal, which has negatively impacted local economies.

“Power providers in many states are taking billions of dollars out of their local economies to send across state lines and, in some cases, overseas,” Jeff Deyette, assistant director of energy research at UCS, said. “This money can be better spent on investments in homegrown clean-energy sources, which keep more money in these states and helps support local economies.”