PSC chairman hints Vogtle project may be ‘abandoned’

[private]Public Service Commission Chairman Stan Wise has offered the first public indication that Georgia Power may be scrapping its cost overrun-plagued nuclear project at Plant Vogtle.

In a letter dated Dec. 6 to Georgia Power President Paul Bowers, Wise offered to move the date for a final decision on Vogtle’s future from mid-February back to Dec. 31.

If the ultimate decision on Vogtle “leads to the project being abandoned, such a decision needs to be made by year-end or Georgia Power customers potentially lose out on what you state is approximately $150 million in savings,” Wise wrote.

The savings Wise was referring to would come from the tax cut bill now making its way through Congress that would provide huge tax breaks for corporations.

“While we can’t predict legislative outcomes, it is obvious to me that some version of tax reform will be enacted,” Wise said in his letter to Bowers.

“We support the commission’s preference for resolving this important question as carefully and quickly as the commission believes is appropriate, so all stakeholders can move forward based on that decision,” Georgia Power spokesman Jacob Hawkins said.

Wise is a longtime advocate of nuclear energy and the Vogtle project. The letter is the first time he was made any public indication that the PSC might go along with killing the project.

“Stan does not do things like this without Georgia Power telling him to,” said an energy consultant familiar with PSC machinations. “Likely, the decision to close down the project has already been made.”

The construction of two additional nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle has gone way over budget and is now more than four years behind schedule.

Originally projected to cost $14 billion, the cost of the reactors has now ballooned to $25 billion and could increase even more unless the project is terminated.

PSC staffers and consultants advised the commission this week that the Vogtle project was no longer economic for its ratepayers.  It would save customers $1.6 billion if the project were shut down and replaced by natural gas-fired power plants, the analysts said.

The PSC is in the middle of holding hearings on whether the Vogtle project should go forward. The commissioners scheduled a final vote on the issue for February.

Wise said in his letter to Bowers that he will ask the PSC next Monday to issue a new scheduling order that would change the date for that decision to late December.

“These changes would allow the company to make any necessary abandonment declarations this year if the decision warrants or otherwise know the conditions for proceeding with construction,” Wise wrote.

© 2017 by The Georgia Report


Tags: Plant Vogtle , PSC. Paul Bowers , Stan Wise