SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Georgia Public Service Commissioners Approve $169 Million More for Over-Budget and Delayed Vogtle Nuclear Reactors
Regulators reject measures to protect consumers
Contact: Jennifer Rennicks, SACE, 865.235.1448, Jennifer@cleanenergy.org
Atlanta, Ga. (August 18, 2015) ///PRESS RELEASE/// Today the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) unanimously approved an additional $169 million in expenditures and rejected several recommendations from the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), an intervener in the semi-annual Vogtle construction monitoring docket (VCM), which could have helped protect Georgia Power’s customers from some of the risks caused by the mounting schedule delays and subsequent cost increases. They also amended the Advisory Staff’s recommendation by striking the organization’s request for the costs and an explanation of the mitigation measures required for the water withdrawal permit from the Savannah River to be included in subsequent VCM reports. Georgia Power, a subsidiary of the Southern Company, is the largest owner in the project and is regulated by the PSC.
The utility’s 12th VCM report accounted for spending $2.96 billion in cumulative construction and capital costs and increased the Company’s total construction capital cost estimate upwards, from $4.418 billion to $5.045 billion. Many critical path activities are severely delayed and the possibility of schedule compression continues to decline as these delays increase. These costs also do not include any portion of the over $1 billion in costs being litigated by the Consortium and Owners in federal court.
SACE requested that the PSC could protect ratepayers and help minimize the financial impact of cost overruns by reducing the Company’s allowed return on equity from the current 10.95% whenever the Company begins accruing any return on equity expenses on its total capital costs. The South Carolina Public Service Commission is considering this type of proposal where SCE&G’s expansion at V.C. Summer is also over budget and delayed.
“During this reporting period, we’ve heard that the project is likely delayed another three months beyond the current 39-month delay. With further delays, costs increase. The dramatic erosion of any claimed benefits reduces the financial viability of Plant Vogtle’s expansion and completely undermines the Georgia Power’s arguments regarding the long-term benefits to ratepayers,” said Sara Barczak, High Risk Energy Choices Program Director with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “Unfortunately today the Commission gave Georgia Power exactly what they wanted, again. Some common-sense recommendations were rejected that could have actually helped protect today’s customers and provide more information about environmental mitigation measures.”
As explained in SACE’s final brief, because of the 39-month delay, the average Georgia Power residential ratepayer who uses only 1,000 kilowatt hours per month will see a $319.00 or a $6.26 per month increase in their electric bill beginning in April 2016 and continuing to June 2020. The $319.00 increase in rates will be split between $132.00 in higher fuel costs and $187.00 in higher Nuclear Construction Cost Recovery (NCCR) costs. For the average $6.26 per month increase that will mean an increase of $3.67 for the NCCR tariff charge and $2.59 for increased fuel costs. According to the Georgia PSC’s Georgia Power Bill Calculator a residential ratepayer using 1,000 kilowatt hours currently pays an average of $6.45 per month and this amount will increase an additional $3.67, or a 57% increase.
Georgia Power ratepayers are currently paying an additional 9.4% on their bills for the NCCR rider due to anti-consumer state legislation passed in 2009 to incentivize building new reactors. The Company began collecting this “nuclear tax” in 2011 for financing costs and taxes that would normally be recovered over the normal life of the facility. SACE’s brief argued that to allow the Company to over collect any financing costs above the current approved certified cost of $6.113 billion places an unnecessary financial burden on ratepayers.
“Over $1.2 billion in pre-collected financing costs have been charged to ratepayers and the financing costs represent the largest share of the project’s cost overruns. As the project is further delayed, cost increases continue,” said attorney Robert Baker, representing SACE. “It’s clear that regulatory and legislative changes are needed in order to protect ratepayers.”
Additional information: Find SACE’s brief in the 12th VCM here and recent blog that contain extensive background information. Originally reactor Unit 3 was scheduled to come online April 1, 2016 and Unit 4 on April 1, 2017 for a total project cost of approximately $14.1 billion. The current certified cost for Georgia Power’s share of the project is approximately $6.113 billion. With a 39-month delay, the Company’s current cost estimate has increased to $7.518 billion (Georgia Power’s 12th VCM Report, Table 1.1, p. 11) and that does not include any of the nearly $1 billion in cost overruns currently under litigation. Georgia Power, subsidiary of the Southern Company, is 45.7% owner and is regulated by the PSC (remaining utility partners are Oglethorpe Power (30%), MEAG (22.7%), and City of Dalton (1.6%)). With a delay cost of $2 million per day plus taxes, and additional costs still being litigated between the Owners and the Consortium, the full project cost estimates are likely to be over $18 billion.
About Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Founded in 1985, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is a nonprofit organization that promotes responsible energy choices that work to address the impacts of global climate change and ensure clean, safe, and healthy communities throughout the Southeast. Learn more at www.cleanenergy.org