PSC puts off decision on considering Vogtle cost increases

[private]The Public Service Commission has delayed a decision on whether it will start considering an increase in the certified cost of the two nuclear reactors Georgia Power is building at Plant Vogtle.

Recent regulatory filings from Georgia Power indicate the utility’s share of the Vogtle construction costs has increased from an initial projection of $6.11 billion to $7.52 billion, with the scheduled completion slipping by about three years from the initial date.

Georgia Power has asked the PSC to give the company early approval of those increased costs and schedule delays, but consumer organizations have pushed back against the request.

The PSC had the issue listed on its meeting agenda for Tuesday, but Chairman Chuck Eaton announced the matter would be taken up later.

“The parties have been talking on the issue and we’re hoping they will come up with something they can agree on,” Eaton said after the meeting.

Georgia Power’s parent company, the Southern Co., has been hit by significant cost overruns on the Vogtle project and on a coal-powered plant that Mississippi Power is building in that state.

Back in September 2013, when the cost overruns on Vogtle were at the $737 million level, Georgia Power and the PSC agreed that the commission would put off a decision on accepting those cost increases until after the first nuclear plant went online.

At that time, the unit was expected to start generating electricity in 2018, but that date has now moved to 2019.

Georgia Power is asking the PSC to go ahead and rule on those increases now because of uncertainty in the financial markets. Consumer watchdogs oppose the request.

“If the commission approves the revised completion dates and certified cost to complete the units, there is significant increased risk that the entire cost of overruns could be unfairly borne by ratepayers alone,” said Liz Coyle, the executive director of Georgia Watch.

“We’re at a crossroads here,” Eaton acknowledged. “It’s a debate on whether to have an early debate (about the Vogtle costs).”

Eaton said the matter will likely be raised at the PSC’s next administrative session on March 31.

© 2015 by The Georgia Report

[/private]

Tags: Chuck Eaton , Georgia Power , Georgia Watch , Liz Coyle , nuclear construction costs , Plant Vogtle , PSC