In a statement Wednesday, Georgia Power announced that the work at Plant Vogtle has made significant progress following the takeover of project management after the bankruptcy of Westinghouse last year. With support from many of Georgia’s top political leaders construction has carried on, making significant progress under new lead contractor Southern Nuclear.
Alas, cost overruns continue. A revised cost-to-complete estimate from Southern Nuclear now shows the total cost for Georgia Power at $8.4 billion, up from $7.3 billion. Which was already beyond initial estimates in 2009.
Notably though, the additional costs will be absorbed by Georgia Power and will have no impact on customer bills. The $75 in bill credits arranged by the Georgia Public Service Commission will continue to go out, with the third and final $25 expected in September.
“While there will always be challenges in building the first new nuclear units in this country in more than 30 years, we remain focused on reducing project risk and maintaining the current project momentum in order to provide our customers with a new carbon-free energy source that will put downward pressure on rates for 60 to 80 years,” said Paul Bowers, chairman, president and CEO of Georgia Power.
Georgia Power also noted that some of the costs are related to labor incentives to both attract and retain adequate staffing levels. One of the underappreciated issues with a growing economy is the increased cost for infrastructure projects such as Vogtle. Attracting and retaining workers can grow more expansive as demand for these positions, some highly specialized, increases.
Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols was pleased with announcement. “Having the power company absorb this instead of ratepayers is great news. They likely realized that there was little chance the PSC would approve so soon. We may yet see a request for part of this money at end of project. Georgia law provides no cap if money spent prudent,” said Echols.
Governor Deal was also effusive in his compliments on the efforts from Georgia Power. “I applaud the leadership of Paul Bowers in ensuring this critical infrastructure and economic development project continues,” said Deal. “Georgia Power has pledged that any new price increases with this change in budget will be covered by the company, and not consumers, and I applaud its continued adherence to that commitment. This is the only ongoing nuclear energy construction project in the country, and the first to earn a permit in more than three decades. I support the efforts of Georgia Power in ensuring our citizens have a long-term, sustainable energy source while creating thousands of jobs. I look forward to completion of Plant Vogtle Units 3 & 4 and its continued impact on our economy and infrastructure.”
Somewhat shockingly, it appears neither Democrat running for PSC seats in November issued a statement in response to the announcement from Georgia Power today. Lindy Miller, running against Republican Chuck Eaton, has previously been critical of the cost overruns and was not impressed with the bill credits earlier this year.
Expect all that to come up in the debates in a few weeks.