HB 267 Financing costs; construction of nuclear generating plant

As promised, a bipartisan bill was filed Thursday to stop Georgia Power from charging for nuclear cost overruns on Plant Vogtle; this could free up some financing for Georgia to move ahead on solar and wind power.

2013-2014 Regular Session – HB 267 Financing costs; construction of nuclear generating plant; change calculation that utility can recover from customers,

A BILL to be entitled an Act to amend Code Section 46-2-25 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to the procedure for changing any rate, charge, classification, or service and the recovery of financing costs, so as to change the calculation used under certain circumstances to determine the costs of financing associated with the construction of a nuclear generating plant that a utility may recover from its customers; to provide for related matters; to provide an effective date; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.

The bill would add this text to Georgia Code:

…provided, however, that in the event the amounts recorded in the utility’s construction work in progress accounts plus the amount of all financing costs accrued on any construction work in progress accounts exceeds the costs approved by the commission in the original certificate of the nuclear generating plant granted under Code Section 46-3A-5, the cost of equity portion of the financing costs shall be calculated using a rate no higher than the utility’s actual cost of debt.

Let’s see what Georgia Power does to fight this one. So far, it’s released this homily that GPB quoted:

The PSC has complete oversight of the project and has verified and approved every dollar spent to date. To date, the Commission has conducted seven separate public hearings (it is about to perform its 8th) in which it has verified and approved each dollar spent, has received reports from its independent monitor Dr. Bill Jacobs, and continually assessed the economics of the project.

Funny how Georgia Power didn’t mention that:

“Nuclear engineer William Jacobs said poor construction material, contractor mistakes and oversight delays will mean the Unit 3 reactor won’t be ready until July of 2017.”

At the December 2012 GA PSC meeting to which Jacobs spoke, Commissioner Tim Echols said Georgia Power hadn’t asked for a rate increase. Which was because they just got a rate increase in November and GA PSC also rubberstamped cost Plant Vogtle overruns in August.

The cosponsors of HB 267 are Jeff Chapman (R—Brunswick) District 167 and Karla Drenner (D—Avondale Estates) District 85. Maybe they looked into Georgia Power and SO’s record on nuclear cost overruns last time they built nukes.

Jeff Chapman was in the Georgia Senate in 2009, when he voted against SB 31, “Energy Rate Increases to Finance Nuclear Power Plant Construction”, the bill that lets Georgia Power charge that Construction Work in Progress (CWIP) that appears on customers’ bills as Nuclear Construction Cost Recovery Rider. Rep. Karla Drenner voted for 2009’s SB 31, but now she’s a co-sponsor of HB 267! Yay Karla; yay Jeff!

How about some more co-sponsors to chip away at one leg of Southern Company’s three-legged nuclear regulatory-capture stool?

Subsidies are all that prop up the nuclear industry, and Plant Vogtle subsidies (and natural gas subsidies) are what Georgia Power and its parent the Southern Company are using to suck up lots of money that could be going to solar inland and wind offshore. More than two years ago a study from Arizona State University said Georgia is the #3 state that could benefit most from solar electricity, both for our use here in Georgia, and for selling at a profit to other states. Add to HB 267 this year’s SB 51, The Georgia Cogeneration and Distributed Generation Act and we’ll start to get somewhere.

It’s time to get on with real 21st century power: conservation, efficiency, sun, and wind, for jobs, health, air, and water.