Guest columnist Brionté McCorkle writes that Georgia Power shareholders should pick up the ballooning tab for the Plant Vogtle expansion, not customers. John McCosh/Georgia Recorder (File)
As the saying goes: More money, more problems.
With Georgians having to pay more money for their utility bills, financial challenges and utility disconnects are becoming increasingly common statewide. And a major cause of those bigger bills? Plant Vogtle.
These increases in utility bills aren’t because Georgia families are using more electricity. Many of these costs are because the state regulatory agency tasked with keeping utility companies in check has allowed Georgia Power to put customers on the hook for the utility’s own spending.
Originally scheduled to be completed in 2016, Plant Vogtle’s Units 3 and 4 could possibly come into operation sometime this year. The six-plus-year delay can largely be attributed to corporate mismanagement by Georgia Power and construction setbacks that also jacked the price tag up to more than double initial estimates – a whopping $30 billion. To put that in perspective, the current cost of this project could fund the City of Atlanta’s budget for 40 years.
In fact, just last month, Georgia Power’s parent company announced that they are anticipating further delays and every month results in another $15 million in added costs. The setbacks seem like they’ll never end.
Over the years, Georgia Power has repeatedly pressed state regulators – the Georgia Public Service Commission – to let it pass down Vogtle expenses to its customers who have no say in Vogtle’s planning or construction. Along with these seemingly endless cost overruns came the Public Service Commission’s recent vote to raise Georgia Power’s profit margin, which will result in hundreds of millions of dollars in additional profits taken from Georgia families and businesses and given to company shareholders.
This is a bill Georgia Power absolutely can afford to pay and should pay. Georgia Power services 2.7 million customers in all but four of Georgia’s 159 counties — so imagine how much it will reap from a nearly $200 annual increase on utility customers. While some argue that Plant Vogtle is a strategic move for Georgia, there are countless other ways the state could gain the same benefits with far fewer risks.
We must continue to diversify our energy grid with solar energy and other renewables.
In the case of Vogtle, the clear economic consequences far outweigh the murky potential benefits. It’s time to start asking the tough questions and address this problem head on. If Georgia’s Public Service Commission members won’t hold utility companies accountable, maybe it’s time we hold these elected officials accountable and vote in leaders who will finally fight for Georgia families.
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