Georgia Public Service Commission Approves Vogtle Settlement
Clay Jones, Vice President and General Counsel
On December 19, the Georgia Public Service Commission voted 5-0 to approve a proposed settlement (“Stipulation”) resolving all remaining issues related to the capital costs associated with the construction of Plant Vogtle nuclear Units 3 and 4. The Stipulation was negotiated by GAM, Georgia Power Company, the Commission Staff, and other parties representing residential customers – Georgia Watch, Georgia Interfaith Power & Light and the Partnership for Southern Equity.
The Stipulation was reached after many years of concerns consistently expressed by GAM and the Commission Staff, among others, about the escalating costs of the Vogtle project. The Stipulation provides for a hard cap on the total approved recovery of capital costs at $7.562 billion ($2.1 billion of which is already incorporated into the rate base). This would mean – assuming Georgia Power’s current projection for the final project cost is accurate – Southern Company shareholders will be responsible for $2.625 billion ($10.187B minus $7.562B) of project costs that will not be charged to ratepayers.
The Stipulation preserves the status quo on revenue allocation for capital costs, spreading the Vogtle 3 and 4 increase between standard base rates and not to marginal usage on Real Time Pricing (“RTP”) tariffs. As an additional ratepayer protection measure, the proposed Stipulation provides that if Unit 4 is not completed and operational by March 31, 2024, the return on equity for purposes of calculating financing costs will be reduced to zero until the project is completed and Unit 4 is operational.
This case lasted several months, including hearings that were held December 4-5 and a Commission Energy Committee on December 14, at which GAM was present and forcefully argued for adoption of the Stipulation. A couple of non-signatory parties argued against adoption of the Stipulation, but the Commission rejected their arguments.
Despite the increase to customer base rates, Plant Vogtle Units 3 and 4 will provide carbon-free, 24/7 base load power for the next 60 to 80 years. This will benefit all customers through lower fuel costs and system reliability.
GAM thanks its members for their support of our advocacy during this case. The Association will continue to support the interests of manufacturers and sensible energy regulatory policies before the Commission.