Brady Watson and Bryan Jacob | October 18, 2021
| Energy justice, Georgia, Nuclear, Utilities
On the evening of Thursday, October 7, groups including the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), Georgia Conservation Voters, Georgia Beyond Coal, We the Plug Tho, Environment Georgia and the Sierra Club Georgia Chapter organized a Public Service Commission of the People (CFP) Hearing.
Nearly 30 attendees joined the event, which was held in response to the Georgia PSC’s decision to cancel the public comment period for its October 14 hearing. Watch the morning hearing and the afternoon session. The issue presented at the October 14 hearing was Georgia Power’s request to increase customer rates to pay for the first batch of costs associated with the Year 3 expansion – delayed and over budget by several. billion dollars from the Plant Vogtle nuclear power plant, or the Vogtle Cost Meltdown, as event organizers referred to the situation.
Watch the event recording
Georgia Power is the state’s only for-profit utility company and, among other tasks, the Georgia PSC is responsible for overseeing utility pricing. It should be noted that the PSC is made up of five elected commissioners and voters can vote in each of the five districts no matter where they live.
Breaking Vogtle’s Cost Collapse
Organizers and attendees of last week’s PSC People’s Hearing shared a common concern: Georgia Power must pass the costs of its ever-increasing overruns at Plant Vogtle onto taxpayers in a way that is fair and in a way that does not overburden low-income customers who are already struggling to pay their bills.
The PSC first approved an expansion of the Vogtle plant in 2009, with the expectation that Unit 3 would be online by 2016 and Unit 4 by 2017. At the time, the total cost of the expansion was estimated at $ 14 billion. At present, the The cost of expanding Vogtle’s units 3 and 4 has doubled to $ 28 billion, and neither unit is online yet. Georgia Power is managing the construction although it only owns 45.7% of the project. The PSC had previously determined that it would be “reasonable” for Georgia Power to spend up to $ 7.3 billion on its share of the project, but its costs are already close to $ 9 billion.
Georgia Power’s current proposal is to increase customer rates by $ 302 million per year. This will allow Georgia Power to recoup the first $ 2.1 billion of its capital expenditures to date. In other words, this is only the first rate to augment; it will not be the last or the only one.
The proposal is to apply this rate increase equally to all base rates. But, as Wan Smith of Georgia Conservation Voters put it, “equal is not fair.This point is illustrated by the fact that residential customers have already paid much more for this project than industrial customers.
By the end of 2020, Georgia Power had already raised $ 3.5 billion from its customers through nuclear construction cost recovery (NCCR) fees. So far, the cost contributions can be broken down as follows:
- Residential customers paid 47% or $ 1.66 billion
- Industrial customers paid 11%, or $ 401 million
- Commercial customers paid 40% or $ 1.39 billion
Empower people’s voices
Since the public was not permitted at this week’s hearing and only written comments via email were allowed, video commentary from this popular PSC hearing is another opportunity for Georgia Power customers. have with the Commission on the pending decision to increase customer tariffs to pay for the Vogtle 3 unit. With such a monumental decision, we believe that the public must be heard and, therefore, the comments gathered during the PSC People’s Hearing have been brought together for the Commission.
The public comment portion of the event began with Wykeisha How, who expressed concern over her ability to pay for the needs of her eight children as her electric bill continues to rise, âMy electricity bill has skyrocketed and I can barely afford food and basic necessities. I can’t afford a bill of $ 200 per month. I just received a disconnection notice. The pandemic is tough on us. I live in an energy dependent community and will be watching and telling all my neighbors what you are doing.
Linda Clark, a single mother said that although she had enough income for herself and her daughter, âI still have to help others because we are still in the same boat. I am looking to retire and want to enter a lower income bracket and maintain a high quality of life. I don’t want to have to go to the grocery store and make food choices. Power is a basic necessity.
Myke McFarland of Austell, Georgia understood the outrage of the most vulnerable customers who have been significantly affected by the proposed rate hike and that, âThey allow them (Georgia Power) to profit from bad business. Tom Fanning (the CEO of Georgia Power) earned $ 28 million in compensation, 500 times the average salary of workers in Georgia. I’m talking to Tim (Echols) and Bubba (McDonald) who have been with the (Georgia Public Service Commission) the longest and who are Christians. It is not a Christian thing to cut people off in the midst of a pandemic. It is not fair to take their cost mistakes out to taxpayers, they should get them out of their profits and compensation. “
KaCey Venning, owner of a small nonprofit that serves people who just scratch, said: âBusinesses have to be good citizens. They should reconsider, there are real people on the other side of your decision. A small change in their budget can make a big difference.
Phil Wolstenholme, who worked in the nuclear industry 30 to 40 years ago, said: âWe have to look out for the public interest. Responsible people should bear the financial burden rather than consumers, especially those who cannot afford it. The PSC should watch over the public.
Dr Dawn Cason of Powder Springs said it was, âIt is important for the PSC to hear from the public. None of us, as customers, had a choice between nuclear power plant, expansion or loads. Georgia Power is expected to allocate the costs between commercial and industrial, as well as residential. Not fair for us to have to pay for the overages. Whoever is responsible should have to pay for the excess.
Barbara Joye, a former employee of the Consumer Utilities Council in the 1980s, a publicly funded group that supported PSC staff in setting rates, said she: âI arrived without knowing anything and got very frustrated. They don’t care about consumers, especially residential ones. Plant Vogtle was a stupid investment. Can you imagine what we could have done with this money ?! Weatherized every home, added lasting energy. Anything you can do to reduce the rates would be extremely helpful. I’m 78 and I probably won’t be around to see the finished factory. It’s just a shame.
Bette Holland of Dawsonville, Ga. And who works with the North Georgia Conservation Association continued to voice the concerns of others about the fairness of the allocation of costs, âThe costs inevitably flow to Georgia Power customers, many of whom are low-income and cannot afford the increases. It’s not fair when CEOs and shareholders are making tons of money, they can pay. Low to middle income residents should never have to pay for further rate increases again. ”
Christine Baker said, âI have the impression that the company is responsible for the additional costs. It should be on the minds of policy makers. They should not be allowed to make profits for managers or shareholders. If some customers paid more than others, they should receive a discount. Conversely, customers who have not paid a lot in relation to their income should pay more. “
In late January 2022, Georgia Power is expected to come up with its next Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), or Energy Resource Plan, which will include a public comment period. The IRP released every three years will outline the utility’s power generation plans for the next 20 years and provides for paying for infrastructure upgrades, among other costs. Hoping that it will be improved compared to the last IRP.
Another problem that PSC and Georgia Power will face that should be included in the IRP is that cleaning up toxic coal ash is expected to cost up to $ 8 billion.
In addition, we anticipate another tariff case with Georgia Power in 2022, which will include tariffs for all corn those related to Vogtle’s tariff adjustments.
We agree with others at the People’s PSC hearing: Georgia Power should invest in cleaner, more affordable solar power without having to worry about the environmental concerns of fossil fuels.
Stay tuned for more updates on Plant Vogtle, Georgia Power, Georgia PSC and how you can stay involved.