Win on ‘moral issue’ for Georgia energy consumers
A six-year battle for the consumer rights of Georgians came to a satisfying point on August 30 when SELC agreed to settlement terms with Georgia Power that will offset rate increases from skyrocketing Plant Vogtle construction costs.
It’s a moral issue to seek relief for overburdened communities and communities facing injustices.Codi Norred, Georgia Interfaith Power and Light
Georgians already struggle with some of the highest energy bills in the nation, leaving thousands of low-wealth communities and fixed-income households exposed to high energy burdens.
While Georgia Power customers will still pay billions in Vogtle’s costs over decades, the utility agreed to offset $2.6 billion in excess construction costs after negotiating with SELC, on behalf of Georgia Interfaith Power and Light and Partnership for Southern Equity.
SELC and partners also fought for additional much-needed bill relief for older adults and Georgians with limited incomes, including Georgia Power expanding energy efficiency and bill relief programs.
“It’s a moral issue to seek relief for overburdened communities and communities facing injustices,” said Executive Director of Georgia Interfaith Power and Light Codi Norred. “Our hope is that these programs at least provide some benefit to those families who are on the edge, to provide some modicum of relief in the midst of a tumultuous period.”
A hard-fought battle
Construction of Georgia Power’s two new nuclear power units at Plant Vogtle began in 2009. By the time we stepped in in 2017, the project was running nearly five years behind and billions of dollars over budget. Ignoring alternative recommendations, the Georgia Public Service Commission greenlit the budget for the project’s continued construction overruns.
A long legal battle ensued, as costs continued to spiral out of control. We challenged the Commission’s decision to proceed in state superior court, but the case was dismissed on the basis that Vogtle costs could not be challenged until the project was complete. SELC continued to advocate before the Commission during its semi-annual construction reviews.
A win for Georgia consumers
While the fight for better access to renewable energy and customer control over their energy bills continues, the recent settlement marks a major win for Georgia’s most vulnerable consumers. Key settlement terms include the expansion of Georgia Power’s popular bill-relief program for low- and fixed-income households. The utility pledged to add up to 96,000 new participants over the next three years. Customers who now qualify for this program with see their energy bills drop by an average of $33.50 per month. The utility also committed to a roughly 50 percent expansion of its energy efficiency programs. Combined, these two program expansions reduce energy use and make bills less expensive for Georgia consumers.
“This settlement is a significant step in advancing our pursuit for energy equity and democratizing energy for many Georgians. The reality is many Georgia families continue to choose between keeping their homes cool or putting food on the table,” said Partnership for Southern Equity Chief Equity Officer Nathaniel Smith, adding it will take Georgians decades to pay for this project.
“These efficiency programs will be a lifeline for many Georgians,” he said.
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There’s still work to do
According to the terms of the settlement, Georgia Power customers are still footing the bill for $7.6 billion in project construction costs. The terms still need to be approved by Georgia’s Public Service Commission after hearing testimony from expert witnesses to determine if the amount of Vogtle’s construction costs passed down to customers is “reasonable and prudent.”
My hope is the energy industry learns from Vogtle’s failures and prioritizes the development of cost-saving renewable options like solar and power storage.Gil Rogers, Director of SELC’s Georgia Office
Unfortunately, these added costs are nothing new for Georgia Power customers. Consumers have each already paid nearly $100 per year for more than ten years before Vogtle Units 3 and 4 ever produced electricity — Unit 3 was only completed this past July, more than seven years after its originally scheduled completion date.
“The construction of Units 3 and 4 is a historic achievement, that comes at a historic cost to Georgians,” said Gil Rogers, Director of SELC’s Georgia office. “My hope is the energy industry learns from Vogtle’s failures and prioritizes the development of cost-saving renewable options like solar and power storage.”
SELC continues to fight for energy solutions that work for all Georgians. We strive for more equitable and cost-effective solutions that prioritize clean energy alternatives and affordable energy bills with bill-relief programs for those who need it most.