PSC urged to make Ga. Power shoulder the risk on Vogtle project

[private]The Public Service Commission is being urged to do something it hasn’t done in the past eight years — shift the burden of financial risk on the troubled Plant Vogtle nuclear project to Georgia Power, not to the utility’s ratepayers.

If the commission goes along with these requests — which is possible, but not likely at this point — then Georgia Power’s customers would be spared from having to bail out a nuclear construction project that is already more than $3 billion over budget.

The financial risk became more ominous this week with the decision by two major utilities in South Carolina to abandon a similar nuclear project because, they said, it no longer made financial sense to continue with it.

The same arguments made by critics of the South Carolina project could also be applied to Georgia Power’s construction of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle.

The PSC is currently reviewing the utility’s Vogtle Cost Management (VCM) report of the money spent on construction during the last six months of 2016. The commission normally approves these expenditures without making any changes in the total reported by Georgia Power — in the latest report, this amounted to $222 million.

But in recent filings with the PSC, outside parties are asking the commissioners not to approve the cost report and to make future expenditures the responsibility of Georgia Power instead of its customers.

“The Commission should be putting the entire cost risk on the Company, which could be done several ways,” said energy consultant Jim Clarkson. “The Commission should refuse to certify any of Georgia Power’s costs and let them decide whether to take the risk of continuing the project themselves or abandoning the project.”

“The company’s imprudence and inability to manage and oversee the project in accordance with industry standards has created a situation where it is no longer economic — and certainly not in the company’s ratepayers’ best interest — to continue with construction of the project,” said the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE).

Georgia Power is trying to avoid any discussion of a potential Vogtle shutdown by arguing that the PSC should only consider the cost report and nothing else.

“There is but one issue,” said Georgia Power attorney Kevin Greene. “Whether the commission should verify and approve or disapprove the expenditures.”

The next action point in the Vogtle timeline apparently will be Aug. 10, at a meeting of the PSC’s energy committee.

PSC Chairman Stan Wise says he will move at that meeting to have the commission staff and Georgia Power “develop a schedule that calls for a final decision before the end of the year on whether the project will continue and, if that decision is to move forward with construction, to approve changes to the schedule and cost.”

Georgia Power officials have already said they will disclose to the commission by the end of August their revised analysis of the cost to complete the nuclear reactors at Vogtle — which will be a key element in any decision made to move forward or not.

© 2017 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Georgia Power , Plant Vogtle , PSC