Georgia owners to continue Plant Vogtle project, with conditions


Georgia’s troubled expansion of Plant Vogtle got a last-minute extension Wednesday, with the project’s warring co-owners striking a deal to keep alive the nation’s only commercial nuclear plant still under construction.

All four owners voted to continue the multi-billion-dollar effort, but without a proposed cap on further cost overruns or clear limits on how much of new expenses might appear in customers’ monthly electric bills.

According to a joint press release, though, new agreements will help “mitigate financial exposure for each” of the owners: Georgia Power, Oglethorpe Power, the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and Dalton Utilities.

If future overruns become big enough, the deal would require lead owner Georgia Power to cover a larger portion of those costs than it otherwise would have. For example, it appears that if there are $1.6 billion in new expenses, Georgia Power would shoulder an additional $80 million above its normal share of the costs.

The agreement also reduces some of the ability of Georgia Power’s partners to pull out of the project. But it creates options in certain circumstances for them to sell portions of their project rights to Georgia Power. And it states Georgia Power has the right to “cancel the project at any time in its sole discretion.”

“We are all pleased to have reached an agreement and to move forward with the construction of Vogtle Units 3 & 4 which is critical to Georgia’s energy future,” the co-owners stated in a press release. “While there have been and will be challenges throughout this process, we remain committed to a constructive relationship with each other and are focused on reducing project risk and fulfilling our commitment to our member-consumers.”

After nine years of construction, the project south of Augusta is billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule. It is now slated to go online in late 2022. Overruns can affect customers of nearly every utility in Georgia, most of which are slated to get energy from the project.

Georgia Power recently had announced $2.3 billion in new cost overruns, just eight months after its last announcement of increased costs. The increase automatically triggered a requirement that co-owners on the Vogtle project again vote on whether to continue the work. That requirement no longer exists under Wednesday’s agreement.

The board of Oglethorpe Power — the project’s second biggest owner — had earlier demanded that a cost cap be placed on the project to mitigate its soaring costs. Oglethorpe also had insisted that Georgia Power’s parent company, Southern Company, eventually take on the additional financial risk if it continues to be wrong about cost projections on the work it manages.

It was the first public call by a Vogtle owner to enact limits on project costs.

Georgia Power, the state’s largest utility, initially blasted that proposal. It and Oglethorpe, which serves membership-based electric utilities in metro Atlanta and elsewhere in the state, traded accusations in a rare public outing of their disagreements. 

That was followed by two days of negotiations before Wednesday’s announcement of a deal.

The agreement sparked additional worries from some.

“We’re very concerned about today’s announcement because it’s clear the Plant Vogtle nuclear project is in serious trouble if this much arm twisting is necessary to keep all four partners at the table,” Stephen Smith, executive director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy said in an emailed statement.

Liz Coyle, the executive director of consumer advocate Georgia Watch, said that after a quick view of the agreement it “appears the owners have decided to plow ahead with a project that holds continued uncertainty and certainly clear risk of major cost increases and very little, if any true protections for Georgia’s electric customers.”

But Gov. Nathan Deal commended efforts to continue a project that “will ensure that Georgia citizens have a long-term, affordable and sustainable energy source,” according to an emailed statement from his office.

Jim Fuller, the chief executive of the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia, issued a statement that the new agreement “includes significant additional safeguards” that validate an earlier decision by the Vogtle co-owner to continue with the project.

The deal includes financial safeguards if MEAG’s ability to continue the project is stymied by a fight with JEA, a Jacksonville, Fla.-based utility that is suing to extricate itself from a deal to buy some of the project’s power and cover some of its construction costs. JEA, like a number of other Vogtle critics, says the project’s power will be more expensive than that from other sources.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Vogtle at center of PSC race as incumbents fight to hold seats
Vogtle at center of PSC race as incumbents fight to hold seats

The state’s Public Service Commission impacts the wallets of millions of electricity and natural gas customers, yet the five regulators are among the least known elected officials in Georgia. Still, the low-profile state body suddenly finds itself in the crosshairs of a statewide debate that has reared its head just weeks before the Nov. 6 elections...
NEW DETAILS: Search continues for gunman after shots fired at cop car, SWAT standoff
NEW DETAILS: Search continues for gunman after shots fired at cop car, SWAT standoff

A search continued overnight for a gunman who fired multiple shots at an unmarked patrol car in southwest Atlanta Monday. Two undercover officers took fire while investigating a call in the 1100 block of Osborne Street about 9:30 p.m., Atlanta police said. According to Channel 2 Action News, there was complaint of drug activity in the area. A man...
Former Atlanta Fire chief will receive $1.2M settlement over firing
Former Atlanta Fire chief will receive $1.2M settlement over firing

The City of Atlanta has agreed to a $1.2 million settlement with an ex-Atlanta Fire chief over his firing after he wrote a book that compared homosexuality to bestiality. The city council approved the payout to Kelvin Cochran with a vote of 11-3, according to WSB Radio, which was at the city council meeting Monday. MORE: Former Atlanta fire chief...
Ex-Georgia high school star who was cut by Falcons accused of having sex with child
Ex-Georgia high school star who was cut by Falcons accused of having sex with child

A former Georgia high school football standout who briefly signed with the Atlanta Falcons was arrested Saturday by Columbus police for allegedly having sex with a 12-year-old girl, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported. Justin Crawford, 23, who played running back at Hardaway High School and West Virginia University, faces charges of incest,...
Felon faces 7 felonies after alleged robbery at Pappadeaux in Gwinnett, SWAT standoff
Felon faces 7 felonies after alleged robbery at Pappadeaux in Gwinnett, SWAT standoff

A man was arrested Monday in Gwinnett County after allegedly attacking two men in a seafood restaurant parking lot and prompting a SWAT standoff at a nearby apartment complex, Channel 2 Action News reported. Mikail Dinkins, 26, of Duluth, is accused of pistol-whipping a man in the parking lot of Pappadeaux on Jimmy Carter Boulevard before robbing...
More Stories