PSC staff has unkind words for Ga. Power’s Vogtle demands

[private]The Public Service Commission staff is resisting Georgia Power’s demands that the utility giant be authorized to dump all of the cost overruns on the Plant Vogtle nuclear project onto the backs of its ratepayers.

In an early draft of a PSC response to Georgia Power threats that the project will be cancelled if the company’s cost overruns are not all certified as “reasonable,” a staffer wrote, “I think we dismiss that out of hand as an inappropriate extortion attempt.”

In that same draft report, Georgia Power’s shutdown threats were described this way: “Arguably, this is an attempt to strong arm the Commission into finding all of the costs reasonable by the threat that the Co-owners will cancel the project if the Commission does not.”

The PSC staff is pulling together its recommendations on how the commission should vote on two important issues: should the Vogtle project move forward, and should Georgia Power’s shareholders have to eat some of the cost overruns?

“It is important to note that this internal draft document from the Georgia PSC appears to be over a month old and predates the recent hearings in which the company’s witnesses testified in support of our filing,” Georgia Power spokesman Jacob Hawkins said. “We will review and respond to Georgia PSC staff’s testimony once it is filed and available as part of the VCM process.”

The commission has scheduled a February vote on whether Vogtle is a go or a no go, when it will also presumably address the issue of which costs are reasonable.

The preliminary draft of the PSC staff comments was originally reported by Kristi Swartz, a former Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter who now writes for E&E News, a trade publication.

The construction of two additional reactors at Plant Vogtle was originally projected to cost around $14 billion, with the first reactor generating electricity by 2016.

That estimated cost has since nearly doubled and the project is now about four years behind schedule. The primary contractor on the reactors, Westinghouse Electric, has also declared bankruptcy, leaving Georgia Power and its partner companies responsible for the project management.

Georgia Power owns a 45.7 percent share of the two Vogtle reactors, while Oglethorpe Power owns a 30 percent share, MEAG Power 22.7 percent, and the City of Dalton 1.6 percent.

Georgia Power’s attorneys have argued that the company must be allowed to write off all of the cost overruns on its ratepayers. If not, either Georgia Power or its partners could simply pull the plug on the project.

“Neither the Commission nor any court has ever determined that the Company has the right to cancel a project in a situation where the Commission disapproves some of the costs, not because it wants the project to stop, but because it believes that some of the costs are more appropriately borne by the Company,” PSC staffers said in their draft document.

“Further, if the Company does cancel the project simply to avoid costs that are appropriately allocated to it, that decision itself may be imprudent,” staffers said.

“In general, all of the project’s co-owners are unified in the recommendation we have made to continue construction and without all of the co-owners’ continued support, the project cannot move forward,” Hawkins said.

© 2017 by The Georgia Report


Tags: Georgia Power , Plant Vogtle , PSC