Georgia Power customers could see their monthly bills go up by $9 to pay for the Vogtle Nuclear Plant

ATLANTA — Customers staying at Georgia’s largest electric utility could see their bills rise by an additional $9 a month to pay for a new nuclear power plant under an agreement announced Wednesday.

Georgia Power Co. said: Customers will pay an additional $7.56 billion for Vogtle’s construction costs under the agreement with the facilities management personnel.

The five elected commissioners of the Georgia Public Service Commission must agree to any deal, but such agreements are usually disguised. With the commission’s public interest defense staff and three groups of taxpayers signed on, the deal is likely to avert contentious hearings about how much blame the company should bear for billions in cost overruns at two new nuclear reactors southeast of Augusta.

Vogtle’s Unit 3 and Unit 4 are the first new US reactors to be built from scratch in decades. Each reactor can power about 500,000 homes and businesses without emitting any carbon. But even as government officials and some utilities look again to nuclear power to mitigate climate change, Vogtle’s cost could discourage utilities from pursuing nuclear power.

Jacob Hawkins, a spokesman for Georgia Power, said the agreement represents “a balanced approach that recognizes the value of this long-term investment to the state and recognizes customers’ affordability needs.”

Liz Quayle, executive director of Georgia Watch, a consumer advocacy group that signed the agreement, said reactors will never be cheaper than alternative energy sources. But since regulators, traditionally friendly to Georgia Power, have allowed it to be built, Cowell said it is important to limit consumer exposure.

“I think this is the best outcome we can get at the point we’re at in the process,” Coyle said.

The public service commissioners declined to comment on the deal, saying not all evidence had been heard.

Associated Press calculations show that the total cost of the project, including financing, is currently $31 billion for Georgia Power and three other owners. Add to that the $3.7 billion that original contractor Westinghouse paid Vogtle’s owners to walk away from construction, and the total comes to $35 billion. The reactors are seven years behind and $17 billion over budget.

Georgia Power says it spent $10.2 billion for its stake in building Vogtel 3 and 4, which were built alongside two previous reactors. The Public Service Commissioners originally approved the largest unit of the Atlanta-based Southern Co to spend $4.4 billion. After years of delays and cost overruns, the Commission said in 2017 that it would consider $7.3 billion a reasonable cost for Georgia Power.

In a regulatory filing on Wednesday, Georgia Power said $8.8 billion of its $10.2 billion was spent wisely on construction, while $1.4 billion was wasteful and should not be allowed. But the company agreed to waive an additional $1.3 billion it could have asked for from customers, amid indications that Public Service Commission staff may claim that even some spending below the reasonable maximum has been wasted due to mismanagement.

The company says that would amount to an additional $8.95 per month for a typical residential customer, on top of the current monthly bill of $153. The increase will begin when Unit 4 enters the commercial operation phase. Georgia Power has loaded fuel into Unit 4 and says it will reach commercial operation before March 30.

Billings increased by $5 this month after Unit 3 entered commercial operation. That’s up from an increase of $16 per month to pay for higher fuel costs two months ago. There was also an increase in base rates early this year, and another increase is planned for next year.

Hawkins said shareholders in Southern Co. They won’t take on additional losses under the agreement, because the company has already written off $3.26 billion in Vogtle’s projected losses since 2018. Georgia Power could seek to recover some of those losses from the contractors, and the agreement allows shareholders to keep all of those gains.

Georgia Power owns 45.7% of the reactors. Smaller shares are owned by Oglethorpe Power Corp., which supplies electricity to member-owned cooperatives, the Georgia Municipal Electricity Authority and the City of Dalton. Some utilities in Florida and Alabama have also contracted to buy Vogtle’s power.

Other concessions were won by taxpayer groups. Georgia Power has agreed to double the size of the bill relief program that applies to some low-income seniors.

The plan is expected to add 96,000 beneficiaries over the next three years. This includes seniors in low-income families, and people of all ages who receive federal housing vouchers or federal disability payments. The program reduces average monthly bills by $33.50.

Georgia Power has agreed to expand energy efficiency programs by 50% to help reduce energy use and lower bills starting in 2026. The company also agreed to support state applications for a $7 billion share of federal funds to expand solar power to low-income households. .

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