ATLANTA (AP) — Residential customers of Georgia’s largest electric utility could see their bills go up another $9 a month to pay for a new nuclear power plant under a deal announced Wednesday.
Georgia Power Co. said customers will pay another $7.56 billion in plant Vogtle construction costs under an agreement with utility regulators.
The five elected commissioners of the Georgia Public Service Commission must approve any contract, but such contracts are usually proffered. With the commission’s public interest advocacy staff and three leading ratepayer groups signing on, the deal avoids contentious hearings over how much blame the company should bear. Billions in cost overruns At two new nuclear reactors southeast of Augusta.
Vogtle’s Unit 3 and Unit 4 are the first new American reactors to be built in decades. Each reactor can power 500,000 homes and businesses with no carbon emissions. But there are also government officials and some utilities Looking at nuclear power again To mitigate climate change, Vogtle’s costs could discourage utilities from pursuing nuclear power.
Georgia Power spokesman Jacob Hawkins said the deal “represents a balanced approach that recognizes the value of this long-term investment for the state and the need for affordability for customers.”
Liz Coyle, executive director of Georgia Watch, a consumer advocacy group that signed the deal, said reactors will never be cheaper than alternative energy sources. But since regulators, traditionally friendly to Georgia Power, have allowed them to be built, Coyle said it’s important to limit customers’ exposure.
“I believe this is the best outcome we can get with where we are in the process,” Coyle said.
Public service commissioners declined to comment on the deal Wednesday, saying not all evidence had been heard.
The overall cost of the project, including financing for Georgia Power and three other owners, is currently $31 billion, Associated Press calculations show. Add to that $3.7 billion The main contractor is Westinghouse Bhagtal paid the owners to walk away from building the reactors and totaled close to $35 billion. The overall project is seven years late and $17 billion over budget.
Georgia Power said it has spent $10.2 billion on the construction costs of Vogtal Units 3 and 4, which are being built alongside two earlier reactors that have been in operation for decades. Public Service Commissioners originally approved the largest unit of Atlanta-based Southern Co. 4.4 billion to spend. After years of delays and cost overruns, the commission said in 2017 it would consider $7.3 billion a reasonable cost for Georgia Power.
In a regulatory filing Wednesday, Georgia Power argued that $8.8 billion of the $10.2 billion was spent prudently on construction, while $1.4 billion was wasteful and should not have been approved. But the company agreed to pay another $1.3 billion that could be sought from customers, amid indications that Public Service Commission staff will argue that even under the reasonable cap some spending is wasted due to mismanagement.
The company said it would work out to an additional $8.95 per month for a typical residential customer, on top of the roughly $5 customers started paying this month. When Unit 3 enters commercial operations. Further bill hike will start after Unit 4 enters commercial operation. There is Georgia Power Unit 4 is loaded with fuel And he says it will reach commercial operations by March 30 at the latest.
Utility bills are rising sharply for Georgia Power customers. Residential customers received an increase of $16 a month To compensate for higher fuel costs Unit 3 is two months before the increase. Base rates also rose earlier this year, with another scheduled for early next year.
Southern Co. Shareholders will absorb additional losses under the agreement. The company has already written down $3.26 billion in Vogtle losses from 2018, including some expenses listed in Wednesday’s regulatory filing.
Georgia Power currently owns 45.7% of the reactor. Has small share ownership Oglethorpe Power Corp.which supplies electricity to member-owned cooperatives, Municipal Power Authority of Georgia and the city of Dalton. Some utilities in Florida and Alabama also have contracts to buy Vogel’s power.
The ratepayer group won some more concessions. Georgia Power has agreed to double the size of a bill-relief program that currently applies to some low-income seniors. Under the plan, projected to add 96,000 beneficiaries over the next three years, seniors living in households with incomes less than twice the federal poverty line would be eligible. So are people, regardless of age, who receive federal low-income housing vouchers or who receive federal disability payments. The program cuts the average monthly bill by $33.50.
Georgia Power has agreed to a 50% expansion in energy efficiency programs starting in 2026 to help reduce energy use and lower bills. The company also agreed to support state applications for a share of $7 billion in federal grant funds to expand solar power in low-income communities. of family