Georgia Power will charge less to finance Plant Vogtle reactors

By Tom Corwin – Augusta Chronicle

Georgia Power announced Tuesday it will charge customers $139 million less this year to finance two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle just days before the Georgia Public Service Commission is to hold a hearing on its decision in December to allow those projects to proceed.

The company said it had filed an update to the Nuclear Construction Cost Recovery tariff with the PSC that showed it will ask for less this year for Vogtle construction. In a cover letter to the PSC, a Georgia Power official explained that its original $89 million increase will actually be a $50 million decrease due to the impact of the corporate tax cut and a $1.7 billion payment last year from Toshiba, the parent company of the expansion project’s original main contractor Westinghouse, which declared bankruptcy last March. The amount charged to the customer’s base bill will decline from 9.7 percent to 8.4 percent but the impact on the total bill will remain at around 5 percent, according to Georgia Power spokesman Jacob Hawkins.

Beginning in April, that would mean about $2.70 less from a typical residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours a month, the company said in a news release, or about $24 less for the remainder of the year. The company was also ordered by the PSC to pay each customer $75 in rebates for Vogtle construction, spread over three months this year, but the timing for that rebate has not been announced.

Because it earned too much in return on equity in 2016, the PSC has also ordered the company to rebate $43.6 million to customers this year but the timing and the amount per customer have not been announced.

While 5 percent of current bills are related to costs from Vogtle, when completed a company analysis showed it will be around 10 percent of bills. In December, the PSC voted unanimously to allow the project to continue but at a capital cost of $7.3 billion for the company, which owns a 45.7 percent stake in the new reactor projects. The other partners, Oglethorpe Power, MEAG Power and Dalton Utilities, are not regulated by the PSC and their costs are not publicly reported.

Consumer advocacy group Georgia Watch filed a petition with the PSC earlier this month to ask it to reconsider its decision on Vogtle and the PSC will hold a hearing on that Thursday morning. The group contends the commission erred in its decision, including that it ignored the recommendations of its Public Interest Advocacy Staff and did not include the correct cost forecast for completing the project. In its answer Tuesday, Georgia Power claims the group is just recycling previous motions and filings and failed to point out any specific error.

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Source: Augusta Chronicle