Georgia Power customers won’t pay $700 million in new Vogtle costs

By DeAnn Komanecky – Savannah Morning News

Georgia Power officials announced Wednesday the company – not customers – will pay $700 million in additional capital cost increases for Vogtle 3 and 4 nuclear plants. Customers, may, however, be on the hook for the $400 million balance of the revised project increase of $1.1 billion.

The revised costs follow a change in project management from Westinghouse to Southern Nuclear. Westinghouse declared bankruptcy in 2017. The total cost is now estimated at $8.4 billion.

Georgia Power officials said in a press release that a $400 million contingency cost “may be presented to the Georgia PSC for evaluation as and when appropriate in the future.”

The Georgia Public Service Commission has the authority to approve utility rate increases.

Consumer advocates warn

Liz Coyle with Georgia Watch, a consumer advocacy group, said customers shouldn’t relax.

“Georgia Power customers should not be comforted by this latest announcement, which included the ominous warning, ‘the Georgia PSC has stated the $7.3 billion estimate included in the seventeenth VCM (Vogtle Construction Monitoring) proceeding does not represent a cost cap,’” Coyle said.

Sara Barczak, regional advocacy director with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said she wasn’t surprised that costs have increased.

“Today’s news about Plant Vogtle’s expansion having yet another cost increase is not surprising given the continued problems occurring at the nuclear construction site despite being more than 9 years into construction,” Barczak said. She said it’s time the Georgia PSC stand up.

“The project is well over 5 years delayed and has more than doubled from original cost estimates and yet the Georgia PSC approved everything that Georgia Power wanted,” Barscak said.

The General Assembly passed legislation allowing Georgia Power to charge customers for the reactors while they’re being built. A typical residential customer has been paying about $70 a year for Vogtle since 2011. Georgia Power officials said they are giving customers a $75 credit in 2018. The credits are given separately with the final $25 expected in September.

“The $75 is not a refund, but a loan from Georgia Power,” Coyle said. “Georgia Power will recover the $75 ‘credit’ with interest from customers once the new Vogtle units start providing power (if they ever do). .”

Construction progress made

Georgia Power officials also announced Wednesday “significant” progress on the project, with more than 7,000 workers onsite and a major concrete placement in Vogtle 3 and a critical piping module for Vogtle 4. Vogtle 3 is expected to be in service in November of 2021; Vogtle 4 is expected in 2022. The new units are will generate electricity to power approximately 500,000 homes and businesses.

Governor Nathan Deal cheered the progress.

“I applaud the leadership of Paul Bowers in ensuring this critical infrastructure and economic development project continues,” said Deal. “Georgia Power has pledged that any new price increases with this change in budget will be covered by the company, and not consumers, and I applaud its continued adherence to that commitment. This is the only ongoing nuclear energy construction project in the country, and the first to earn a permit in more than three decades….. I look forward to completion of Plant Vogtle Units 3 & 4 and its continued impact on our economy and infrastructure.”

Reporter Mary Landers contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2018 Savannah Morning News

Source: Savannah Morning News