BURKE COUNTY, Ga. — Georgia Power customers can expect to see higher utility bills in the coming years as Nuclear Power Plant Vogtle experiences more delays and higher costs.
Plant Vogtle was originally slated to be complete in 2016. While that deadline has come and gone, new timelines could stretch construction into 2022, according to Tim Echols, the vice-chair of the Georgia Public Service Commission.
"Our staff has presented testimony that things are running over budget from what we've approved," said Echols.
He and his team meet every six months to analyze the money spent on Plant Vogtle by one of the power plant’s many shareholders Georgia Power.
"We're only giving them what we've approved. Just because they go over budget doesn't mean they get the money."
Right now Echols says Georgia Power is approved for $10.5 billion. The utility has currently spent around $7 billion. Once the plant is complete, those costs will be transferred to Georgia Power ratepayers' bills.
"Customers are definitely going to see higher bills," said Echols. "We had estimated that bills would jump between eight and 12%."
If Georgia Power goes over the allotted $10.5 billion, it will have to take that additional money out of its own pocket.
"In fact, we've said that if you're late beyond November 2021, for unit three, and November 2022, for unit four, then we're going to cut the amount of interest that you can even get on this project," Echols said. "So we've got some pretty harsh penalties imposed. So just because they've gone over budget doesn't mean they're going to get that money. They may have to eat it."
Echols believes it will all be worth it in the end because he says the plant is expected to offer carbon-free energy for a century.
"So that is something that many millennials, I think, are excited about having an asset that runs 24/7 that you don't even have to refuel it, but every year and a half, and it has zero carbon emissions, that's a great thing."
As for JEA’s involvement in the controversial Power Agreement over Plant Vogtle, the public utility filed a lawsuit in 2018 in an attempt to remove itself from the expensive agreement since the costs had already been soaring.
JEA plans to hold a meeting soon to discuss how to move forward with that lawsuit.