A bill to prevent Georgia Power from profiting on cost increases at its Plant Vogtle nuclear expansion project failed to get out of a committee Tuesday.
There is a chance the measure could resurface up until the last day of the legislative session.
Consumer advocates and utility officials lined up to testify about the bill (HB 267) in an early morning hearing less than a week after the utility reported that the project’s budget has increased by $737 million, to $6.8 billion. Because Georgia Power is a regulated monopoly, it is allowed to recoup the costs of Plant Vogtle plus earn an 11.15 percent return on its investment. Consumer-rights groups say that is an incentive to bust the budget.
“We’re most concerned that these cost overruns are just the beginning,” said Liz Coyle, deputy director of Georgia Watch.
Keeping Georgia Power from earning a return off of necessary costs for the project would hurt the utility’s credit rating, create a risky business climate and “kill nuclear development in Georgia,” said Kevin Greene, a lawyer who has represented Georgia Power nearly 20 years. Some of the cost increases at Vogtle have been to pay for increased worker training and cybersecurity.
“Do you want to incentivize us to not pay for cybersecurity?” asked Greene, a partner with the firm Troutman Sanders.
State utility regulators have to review Vogtle’s cost and schedule every six months and must approve any budget increases.