Tag Archives: Profit

HB 267 Would Limit Georgia Power’s Profits on Vogtle’s Cost Overruns —GA Sierra Club

There’s still time to contact your state legislators about stopping Georgia Power profitting from cost overruns on the new nukes at Plant Vogtle. Georgia Sierra Club spells out why.

Georgia Power’s expansion at Plant Vogtle will bring us power that is dangerous, expensive and unnecessary.

You may remember a controversial bill the Georgia Legislature approved in 2009, SB 31, the Nuclear Construction Work in Progress (CWIP) bill, which forces Georgia Power ratepayers to pay the financing costs during construction, rather than over the life of the plant. Large users of electricity are exempt from the charge, but residential and mom and pop businesses have been paying for two years.

Even after that sweetheart deal, the Public Service Commissioners scrapped their staff proposal to stop the company from profiting on cost overruns for the project after they top $300 million.

The most recent reports from the independent monitor established by the PSC says

that the project is months behind and as of December, $88 million over budget. Georgia Power gets to earn 11.15% return on all expenses approved by the PSC, so the more they have to spend, the more they get to make and the more ratepayers get to pay!

Putting the profit issue aside for the moment, if the Georgia PSC ever decided to disapprove cost overruns, Georgia Power could take a page from the Mississippi Power playbook and just get the Legislature to let them issue bonds to pay for the work.

HB 267 by freshman Rep. Jeff Chapman excludes the collection of any profits on cost overruns beyond the $6.4 billion the Public Service Commission has approved. The bill is co-sponsored by Avondale Estates Democrat Karla Drenner, who is a member of the Utilities Committee, to which the bill was assigned. Passage of this bill would provide an incentive for Georgia Power to keep expenses down at Vogtle, something that SB 31 failed to do.

It isn’t fair for Georgia Power to profit to the tune of over 11% on delays, overruns and mismanagement, so ask your State Representative to support HB 267.


Renewables are Winning, Nukes are Dead, and Coal is Crashing

Somebody is willing to read the sunshine writing: Renewables are Winning, Nukes are Dead and Coal is Crashing, as Kathleen Rogers and Danny Kennedy wrote for EcoWatch 14 Dec 2012.

As I wrote back in April when formerly coal-plotting Cobb EMC went solar:

Coal is dead. Nuclear is going down. Solar will eat the lunch of utilities that don’t start generating it.

Can Georgia Power and Southern Company (SO) read that handwriting on the wall? They can’t fight Moore’s Law, which has steadily brought the cost of solar photovoltaic (PV) energy down for thirty years now, and shows no signs of stopping. This is the same Moore’s Law that has put a computer in your pocket more powerful than a computer that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in 1982 and was used by an entire company. Solar PV costs dropped 50% last year. Already all the new U.S. electric capacity installed this September was solar and wind. As this trend continues, solar will become so much more cost-effective than any fossil or nuclear fuel power that nobody will be able to ignore it.

Rogers and Kennedy explained this phenomenon:

The seismic shift in how we all use cell phones and mobile technology to access the internet almost snuck up on the incumbent technologies and the monopolies that made money selling us landline telephones and a crappy service. Now, we’re all using apps on smartphones all of the time. So too, the shift to a scaled, solar-powered future built around the modular technology at the heart of solar power—the photovoltaic solar cell—will come as a surprise to many. We call it the solar ascent, and it is happening every day in a million ways.

Will SO and Georgia Power continue to prop up that 1973 legal wall that inhibits solar financing in Georgia? Companies and even economic development authorities are starting to find ways around it, and of course there’s Georgia Solar Utilities (GaSU) trying to wedge into the law as a utility. After Hurricane Sandy, rooftop solar for grid outage independence has suddenly hit the big time (Austin Energy caught onto that back in 2003). The U.S. military got solar and renewable energy back in Afghanistan and are now doing it bigtime everywhere.

SO and Georgia Power can try to ignore Continue reading

Wall Street’s next big thing: privatizing public education

What’s really behind the charter school amendment referendum? Corporate greed.

Jeff Faux wrote for AlterNet 15 October 2012, Education Profiteering: Wall Street’s Next Big Thing? Wall Street’s involvement in the charter school movement is presented as an act of philanthropy, but it’s really about greed. He reviews some of the evidence that charter schools don’t improve education, especially when forced on states. Then he gets into why so much money is flowing into charter schools anyway.

Education privatization would not, per se, create a net new stimulus Wall Street greed for the economy. But by diverting large existing flows of money from the public to the private sector it would create new profit-making ventures that could be capitalized and transformed into stocks, derivatives and leveraged securities. The pot has been sweetened by a 39 percent federal tax credit for financing charter school construction that can double an investor’s return in seven years. The prospect of new speculative opportunities could well recharge the animal spirits upon which Wall Street depends.

Some “liberal” privatization promoters claim that charter schools should not be considered private. But that’s an argument the management companies that run the schools only use when they are asking for more government funding. At the same time they argue in courts and to legislatures that as private enterprises they should not be subject to government audits, labor laws and other restrictions.

These companies rent, buy, and sell buildings; make contracts for consulting, accounting and legal services, food concessions, and transportation; and pay their managers far more than public school principals earn. In cases where city governments have given land to charter schools, for profit real estate companies have ended up owning the subsidized land and buildings. In states where charter schools are required to be nonprofit, profit-making companies can still set them up and then organize a board of neighborhood residents who will give them the right to manage the school with little or no interference.

In 2008 Dennis Bakke, CEO of Imagine Schools, a private company that managed 71 schools in eleven states, sent an email to the firm’s senior staff. It reminded his managers not to give school boards the “misconception” that they were “responsible for making decisions about budget matters, school policies, hiring of the principal, and dozens of other matters.” The memo suggested that the community board members be required to sign undated letters of resignation. “It is our school, our money, and our risk,” he wrote, “not theirs.”

Yet in Georgia it’s our tax money they want to use to fund those “public” private charter schools. That’s the “large existing flows of money” they want to divert into their profiteering pockets. No wonder ALEC is so big into charter schools! And look who else:

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Score high on ALEC policy, score low on education


According to ALEC’s own website, states that score high on ALEC’s education policies score low on education. Remember, ALEC is behind the Georgia charter school amendment on the November ballot. If you didn’t believe Stanford Credo’s study that showed adding a charter school authorizer, as that amendment would do, reduces academic learning, how about ALEC’s own data?

Bill Simon write for The Political Vine today, Charter Schools and ALEC: The Facts ALEC Doesn’t Want You To Know,

If you take the state performance rankings and match them up to each state’s education policy rankings, you come-up with an entirely different picture of how little (if any at all) a state’s degree of conservative education “policy” translates into actual education performance.

I did this ( PDF copy available here) and this is what the 2012 Top 10 states in Performance looks like, and their corresponding Policy ranks:

2012 Performance/Policy Rank

ALEC's 17th Report Card on American Education
  1. Massachusetts / B-
  2. Vermont / D+
  3. New Jersey / B-
  4. Colorado / B
  5. Pennsylvania / C+
  6. Rhode Island / C
  7. North Carolina / C
  8. Kansas / C-
  9. New Hampshire / C+
  10. New York / C-

The numbers are ALEC’s performance rankings, and the letters are ALEC’s policy grades.

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CWIP for SO’s Kemper Coal Plant in Mississippi

Southern Company (SO) is playing the CWIP game of charging customers for electricity they won’t for years with coal in Kemper, Mississippi, not just with nuclear at Plant Vogtle in Georgia. Maybe we should elect some new Georgia Public Service Commissioners so we won’t see the kind of behavior Mississippi’s PSC has turned to.

Cassandra Sweet wrote for Dow Jones and WSJ 25 July 2012, 2nd UPDATE: Southern Co. Second-Quarter Profit Up as Economy Improves,

The company is proceeding with construction of a $2.88 billion advanced-coal plant in Mississippi, despite a decision last month by state regulators to deny a $55 million rate increase the company requested while a related court case is pending. The company’s Mississippi Power unit has filed an appeal of that decision with the state Supreme Court, and argues that without the rate increase it won’t be able to cover certain project expenses that could boost its customers’ future costs.

Mississippi’s Public Service Commission actually denied that rate increase, partly due to opposition from AARP, Sierr Club, and other concerned organizations and citizens. Imagine Georgia’s captive PSC doing that! Mississippi Power took it all the way to the MS Supreme Court, challenged by MS Sierra Club, and that Supreme Court also denied the rate increase. According to MS Sierra Club:

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Clean green jobs for community and profit

Tell me who doesn’t want clean jobs for energy independence and profit?

“Environmental sustainability… can lead to more and better jobs, poverty reduction and social inclusion,”

The above quote is Juan Somavia in an article Stephen Leahy wrote for Common Dreams 1 June 2012, For an Ailing Planet, the Cure Already Exists,

Germany’s renewable energy sector now employs more people than its vaunted automobile industry.

No wonder, when German solar power produces more than 20 nuclear plants. How many jobs? According to Welcome to Germany 13 April 2012, Renewable Energies Already Provide More Than 380,000 Jobs in Germany, which cites a report from the German government,

The boom in renewable energies continues to create new jobs in Germany. According to a recently published study commissioned by the Federal Environment Ministry, the development and production of renewable energy technologies and the supply of electricity, heat and fuel from renewable sources provided around 382,000 jobs in 2011.

This is an increase of around 4 percent compared to the previous year and more than double the 2004 figure.

“Current employment figures show that the transformation of our energy system is creating entirely new opportunities on the job market,” said German Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen.

“It is the major project for the future for German industry. This opens up technological and economic opportunities in terms of Germany’s competitiveness as an exporter and location to do business.”

Wouldn’t we like some of that here in sunny south Georgia, a thousand miles south of Germany?

Back to the Stephen Leahy article:

Globally, the renewable energy sector now employs close to five million workers, more than doubling the number of jobs from 2006-2010, according to a study released Thursday by the International Labor Organization (ILO).

The transformation to a greener economy could generate 15 to 60 million additional jobs globally over the next two decades and lift tens of millions of workers out of poverty, concluded the study, “Working towards sustainable development”.

Everyone will benefit. Everyone can benefit starting right now.

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Fixing the illusion of certainty in Georgia Power’s decision-making

Why is it so hard to get a company like Georgia Power or The Southern Company to get on with solar and wind power for clean energy, for national energy independence, and, most importantly to such corporations, for their own profit? Why instead do they keep investing in coal and natural gas and wasting our tax and customer dollars on nuclear financial boondoggles? Why did Cobb EMC back new coal plants until they had their nose rubbed in national shame about corruption and do nothing about solar until their shareholders revolted and changed a majority of their board? We don’t even need to wait for that forensic audit the new Cobb EMC board wants to get the big picture. Such companies consider what they’re used to to be low risk, and anything new to be risky. Why are they so stodgy, and how do we change that?

These companies have many decades of experience with coal and natural gas, so they consider them less financially risky. (Details like neighbors dying disproportionately from cancer cost a little bit to buy up property, but that’s nothing compared to readily predictable profits.) Even nuclear such companies consider not risky to them, since they’ve got the federal government and their own customers guaranteeing all the financial risk through Construction Work in Progress charges on their bills for power they’re not even receiving from the new nukes and agreement from Georgia PSC that cost overruns like those caused by concrete sinking into the dirt can be passed on to the customers.

Neal Stephenson wrote for World Policy Journal September 2011, Innovation Starvation,

The illusion of eliminating uncertainty from corporate decision-making is not merely a question of management style or personal preference. In the legal environment that has developed around publicly traded corporations, managers are strongly discouraged from shouldering any risks that they know about—or, in the opinion of some future jury, should have known about—even if they have a hunch that the gamble might pay off in the long run. There is no such thing as “long run” in industries driven by the next quarterly report. The possibility of some innovation making money is just that—a mere possibility that will not have time to materialize before the subpoenas from minority shareholder lawsuits begin to roll in.

But if the old ways turn out to be suddenly risky, change can come. Funny how Cobb EMC changed its tune after subpeonas started raining down for its former CEO Dwight Brown. Sure, he got off on a technicality, but it turns out Cobb EMC shareholders didn’t like Continue reading

Private capital funding 100 acre 10 MW solar farm with customer Cobb EMC

So Cobb EMC can do something other than coal, and can do it without wasting EMC customers’ money! Private investment is funding a 100 acre solar farm with Cobb EMC as customer.

Urvaksh Karkaria wrote for Atlanta Business Chronicle 12 April 2012, Smart Energy, Jacoby Development plan 100-acre solar farm in Georgia

A 100 acre solar power farm — billed as the largest in in the state — is planned for middle Georgia.

Smart Energy Capital and Jacoby Development Inc., inked a power purchase agreement with Cobb EMC to buy generation from the 10 MW solar farm to be built in Davisboro, Ga. The project, expected to go online in summer 2015, will generate enough power to light up about 1,500 homes.

Smart Energy Capital, a solar development and finance company, and Jacoby Development, will develop, finance and build the facility. The power generated will be sold to Marietta, Ga.-based Cobb EMC.

Imagine if instead of wasting Cobb EMC’s money on a coal boondoggle that Cobb EMC had moved ahead with this sooner.

But it’s finally starting to happen anyway:

Despite anemic subsidies, the absence of a renewable energy portfolio and, what some claim is Georgia Power Co.’s halting embrace of solar power, the Peach State is attracting solar development.

That’s right, in spite of Georgia Power.

Hey, what if Georgia Power stopped dragging its feet and got on with solar for its own profit?


The costs of coal on your neighbors’ health

We can’t afford the costs of coal on our health.

John Sepulvado wrote for CNN Radio 1 April 2012, A power plant, cancer and a small town’s fears,

The two of them invested their life savings building their home. It’s a large ranch house on several acres, and the plan was the two of them would leave it for their sons and grandchildren. They gave up that dream after Maddox’s mother developed a rare form of ear cancer and died after living at the home for three years.

“I’m not going to bring my grandchildren up in this,” Maddox says. “Anybody who does would be a fool, I think.”

The problem, Maddox explains, is now he and his neighbors are getting sick. For Maddox, the first signs of trouble would come in the middle of the night, when he would wake up with nose bleeds mixed with clear mucus. Then his muscles started twitching, and then he got kidney disease, and then sclerosis of the liver.

Where does he live? Down the road from Plant Scherer in Juliette, Georgia: the nation’s dirtiest coal plant.

Georgia Power’s solution? Buy houses like his, cap the well, and raze the house.

Better solution? Get off of health-destroying moribund coal and get on with clean distributed wind and solar, for the profit (even to Georgia Power), for energy independence, for resilience, and yes, for our health.


LTE: Tell the Industrial Authority No private prison —John S. Quarterman

My LTE in the VDT today. -jsq
Industrial Authority Executive Director Andrea Schruijer told me to expect their board to say something at their 2PM Thursday board meeting about the private prison Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) wants to build on US 84 at Perimeter Road. If they don’t give CCA another extension, the contract expires March 13th.

There’s still time to contact them, (229) 259-9972. Or go to their board meeting at 101 North Ashley Street, 2PM Thursday February 23rd.

A private prison would not increase employment in Lowndes County. It would not even save the state money. And it would have high risk of closing after or even before it opened, because of escapes and inmate disturbances, and most importantly because the state and federal governments can no longer afford to incarcerate so many people. That would leave us and the state holding the bag for any investment in building it.

Outsourcing public justice for private profit at taxpayer expense is not only bad business, we the taxpayers can’t afford to pay for it while public education is under increasing budgetary pressure.

As members of the local community, we do not wish to live in a private prison colony, with the attendant risks of inmate violence and escape, and the accompanying public opprobrium that would drive away the knowledge-based workers we claim to be trying to attract.

Finally, public justice should not be a matter of private profit.

John S. Quarterman
lives in Lowndes County

You may recognize the wording from the petition. You can always write your own letter with your own reasons.