Georgia Power, PSC staff reach deal on Vogtle project recovery costs

September 5, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear News
From left: Vogtle Units 3 and 4 in July. (Photo: Georgia Power)

Georgia Power has signed a proposed agreement with the Georgia Public Service Commission’s (PSC’s) Public Interest Advocacy (PIA) staff and several intervening parties on the total amount the utility should be allowed to recover from ratepayers for the remaining costs associated with the Vogtle-3 and -4 nuclear expansion project. If adopted by the commissioners, the agreement will resolve all issues of the project’s prudency review, according to an August 30 PSC news release.

The agreement, filed August 29, advises capping the recovery from ratepayers of all capital and construction costs for the new Vogtle units at $7.562 billion—a reduction of $2.626 billion from the $10.188 billion that Georgia Power says it expects to have incurred by the time Unit 4 enters commercial operation, which is projected to occur by March 31, 2024, at the latest. (Unit 3 began its commercial operation at the end of July.) Should that date not be met, any additional capital costs incurred prior to Vogtle-4’s commercial start are to be covered by the utility.

Additional signatories to the agreement include Georgia Watch, Georgia Interfaith Power and Light, Partnership for Southern Equity, and the Georgia Association of Manufacturers.

“For ratepayers to incur capital construction costs, the [PSC] must determine the costs are reasonable and prudent,” the release stated. “In the 17th Vogtle Construction Monitoring order—filed in January 2018—$7.293 billion was approved by the commission as ‘reasonable.’ The current proposed stipulation would deem that $7.293 billion ‘prudent’ (a higher standard) and would add $200 million for unanticipated COVID-related costs, $36 million for ad valorem taxes, and $33 million for construction monitoring costs.”

What it means for ratepayers: In its application to the PSC for a rate adjustment to include Vogtle project costs, also filed August 29, Georgia Power proposes to increase base rates by $729 million on an annual basis. Combined with the $207 million reduction to retail rates resulting from the elimination of the Nuclear Construction Cost Recovery tariff, retail rates will rise by about 5 percent, which equates to a bill increase of approximately $8.95 per month for the typical residential customer using an average of 1,000 kWh per month, according to the utility. “In addition,” Georgia Power said, “once fully implemented, the expansion of the Income Qualified Senior Discount included in the stipulated agreement with staff and other intervenors will qualify 96,000 additional customers for the monthly $33.50 discount (including fuel) and will increase the typical residential customer’s bill by approximately $1.00 per month.”

Not a done deal, but . . .: With the endorsement of PIA staff, Georgia Power, and some of its critics, PSC approval seems likely. And it sounds like at least one commissioner might be ready to call it a day. Commission chair Jason Shaw in the release thanked PSC staff for their hard work on the Vogtle project, adding, “With the semiannual Vogtle Construction Monitoring reports and the countless hours of analysis on this project, I assume there has been more evidence presented in this docket than in any docket in PSC history. The culmination of construction on this historic project marks the expansion of clean energy production for another 60 to 80 years here in Georgia.”

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