Plant Vogtle Nuclear Expansion
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The construction of two new nuclear units at Plant Vogtle in Georgia—once deemed the most prudent path for meeting the state’s energy needs—has come to a critical impasse.
Plant Vogtle Units 3 and 4 are the only nuclear units still under construction in the United States now that a nearly identical project at the V.C. Summer plant in South Carolina has been canceled due to delays and rising costs.
Georgia Power has received regulatory approval to continue the project, even as its latest projections put the final price tag at nearly double the original amount. Originally scheduled for completion in 2016 and 2017, the two units are now at least five years behind schedule.
The project’s ongoing problems were exacerbated when its lead contractor, Westinghouse, declared bankruptcy in March 2017. Now Georgia Power customers have increasingly begun to question whether the Vogtle project can be completed and, if so, whether continuing is worth the steadily mounting costs.
An Expensive, Unnecessary Project
While this nuclear project may have once made sense for Georgians, the only folks who stand to benefit from its continuation are Georgia Power’s shareholders. Georgia Power has already collected $2 billion dollars from its customers to “finance” the project, but over half of those funds are actually profits for the utility.
Georgians, especially individuals and families struggling to stay on top of their monthly bills, should not be forced to bear this enormous financial burden, especially for a project that is years away from generating electricity.
Georgia’s energy picture has changed dramatically since the project was approved in 2009. Demand growth projections put forward as justification for the new units have not materialized. Instead, electricity demand has flattened even as Georgia’s economy has grown, largely due to the increasing efficiency of lighting, appliances and other end uses. As a result, completing the units will saddle customers with extremely expensive surplus capacity.
Georgia’s reduced energy demands can more cheaply and responsibly be met through additional solar investments, for which Georgia is now a national leader, as well as through greater efficiency measures.
Not only are these resources far cheaper to deploy, they provide the added benefit of bill savings for utility customers.
Holding Georgia Power Accountable
While the Vogtle units continue to add to customers’ bills, SELC is making the case that if Georgia Power wants to continue down this risky path, it should not be allowed to shift risk away from its shareholders and make customers bear the entire burden of this boondoggle.
SELC continues to advocate that replacing the Plant Vogtle nuclear expansion with new investments in solar power and energy efficiency would be less risky, more affordable, and more than up to the job of powering Georgia’s economy.
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