Georgia PSC commissioners stick to Plant Vogtle decision

  • Anastaciah Ondieki
  • The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
2:21 p.m Friday, Feb. 2, 2018 Business
December 21, 2017 Atlanta - Commission chair Stan Wise (second from left) speaks during a Georgia Public Service Commission meeting December 21, 2017. Georgia’s Public Service Commission voted unanimously to allow continued construction of two nuclear reactors at Georgia Power’s embattled Plant Vogtle, which is billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule. Hyosub Shin / hshin@ajc.com

Despite objections from a consumer advocacy group, the state Public Service Commission will let stand its decision to allow Georgia Power to finish two half-built nuclear reactors.

The commissioners declined to reconsider their order on embattled Plant Vogtle, dismissing a petition by Georgia Watch, which had challenged some components of the regulators’ decision.

VIDEO: Previous coverage of this issue

Georgia Power currently spends $50 million per month on the project. In March 2017, Vogtle’s lead contractor, Westinghouse Electric, filed for bankruptcy. The project was already three years behind schedule and more than $3 billion over budget. Georgia Power’s Paul Bowers argues the project presents “long-term benefits to customers.” Critics have fought against Vogtle's expansion for years, citing cost and safety concerns. Cost and schedule estimates presented by Georgia Power may determine the project's fate. Plant Vogtle is one of Georgia's two nuclear power plants.

In December, the five commissioners unanimously voted to keep construction going at Plant Vogtle, approving Georgia Power’s new cost estimates, schedule and management. Among Georgia Watch’s objections was the commission’s decision to allow the utility company to begin charging customers for one completed reactor before the whole project is finished. Georgia Watch argued the move would have significant economic implications on customers while yielding more profits for Georgia Power and its shareholders.

“We still have not seen any analysis of what the actual cost would be to ratepayers and how much the shareholders will profit as a result of the decision,” said Liz Coyle, Executive Director of Georgia Watch.

The advocacy group argued the portion of the order that was negotiated by commissioner Tim Echols and Georgia Power was not discussed during previous hearings before the motion that was unanimously approved by the commissioners.

“The commissioners are supposed to be balancing the effects on customers and shareholders,” said Coyle.

Georgia Power has always maintained keeping Vogtle construction going is the best economic option for customers.

Since 2009, customers have been financing construction of the two units in Waynesboro, an issue of contention among advocacy groups who argue ratepayers should not bear the financial burden of a project that has had incessant delays and cost overruns.