Georgia Power is aiming for $ 235 million to pay for the nuclear power plant

ATLANTA (AP) – Georgia Power Co. is asking regulators to increase annual fees for customers by $ 235 million a year as the utility tries to pay for its stake in a huge nuclear project.

The company says the proposal would add about $ 4 a month to the bills for a typical retail customer. That would represent an increase of about 3% over the current typical monthly housing bill of $ 122.73.

The Atlanta-based Southern Co. unit filed the application with the Georgia Public Service Commission Tuesday. The five-person regulatory authority is due to vote on the application by November.

Georgia Power owns 46% of two new nuclear reactors at the Vogtle plant east of Augusta. The shareholder utility currently plans to spend $ 8.8 billion in capital costs and $ 3 billion to fund the project, numbers that could rise as construction delays increase.

Georgia Power’s 2.6 million customers have already paid more than $ 3.5 billion for Vogtle Units 3 and 4 under an agreement designed to keep borrowing costs down. However, rates are still expected to continue to rise once the nuclear reactors are completed. Georgia Power predicts rates will increase by a total of 10%, with 3.4% having already occurred. Public Service Commission employees estimate that the typical customer will pay US $ 854 in financing costs by the time the Vogtle reactors are completed.

The staff has signaled it will deny how much Georgia Power can pull in, saying in a recent statement that the company should receive $ 125 million.

“The bills of the fee payers would be significantly lower according to the interpretation of the staff,” wrote an employee and two consultants in a testimony that was submitted on June 7th in a related Vogtle case.

The project is now expected to cost more than $ 26 billion for all of its owners, including Georgia Power, power cooperatives and public utilities. Most Georgia electricity customers, except for those in the northwest corner of the state served by subsidiaries of the Tennessee Valley Authority, will have to pay for the facility. The Jacksonville Electric Authority and some cooperatives in Alabama and Florida are also obliged to purchase electricity from Vogtle.

Ultimately, the five elected Republican commissioners will decide what Georgia Power can charge. However, the current proposed sentence does cover a cost of $ 2.38 billion, which commissioners in 2017 considered prudent. The proposal actually calls for a $ 369 million tariff increase, but it is offset by a $ 134 million reduction in the separate tariff the utility charges to cover construction costs and financing.

The company wants the Commission to approve the tariff increase in the month after Unit 3 goes into commercial operation. In its tariff application, Georgia Power said the new tariffs would begin February 1, assuming a January start date. However, Public Service Commission officials had forecast earlier this month that the first new reactor would not come on stream until June 2022, adding at least $ 2 billion to its cost.

Spokesman Jeff Wilson said the monthly rate hike would be roughly similar even if Vogtle doesn’t start operations in January.

The total cost of the reactors approved in 2012 was originally estimated at $ 14 billion, with the first new reactor originally planned for 2016. Delays and costs rose, especially after the main contractor filed for bankruptcy in 2017. Regulators insist the plant is the best source of clean and reliable energy for Georgia in the future, despite recent delays and costs announced in recent months .

The first new reactor is 98% complete.

Southern Co. posted a $ 1.1 billion loss related to Vogtle in 2018, but it’s not clear who will be paying for the recent overruns. Georgia Power has announced that it will seek regulatory approval to allow customers to pay for the last $ 800 million in expenses.

Georgia Power predicts it will take 60 to 80 years for customers to pay for the new reactors.

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