As the Plant Vogtle expansion faces trouble following the main contractor declaring bankruptcy, more scrutiny is falling on the fees Georgia Power has been charging customers to pre-pay for the construction.
The average residential household has been paying about $100 per year for the “Nuclear Construction Cost” surcharge, but public entities like schools have been paying thousands of dollars a month in some cases. This money covers the financing costs for the construction of two new nuclear reactors, now several years behind and many billions of dollars over budget. It means that Southern Company, Georgia Power’s parent company, put ratepayers on the hook for these cost overruns, instead of their shareholders.
As Liz Coyle, the executive director of Georgia Watch, pointed out to The Augusta Chronicle, Georgia Power collects this surcharge upfront, even though they aren’t providing additional power to customers.
“Residential customers are doubly hit when local governments and schools recover their portion of the nuclear tariff on property tax bills. Georgia Power should not collect another dime until the units are in service –if they ever are,” Coyle said.
According to the paper’s analysis, some school systems they examined were paying over $9,000 per month on their power bill, just to pay the “Nuclear Construction Cost” surcharge.
As one former school board member told The Augusta Chronicle, “They charge the school system in Dade County so much every year they could afford to hire another teacher.”
The surcharge has been in place since 2010, which means that even as school systems were furloughing teachers and cutting schools days just to make ends meet, Georgia Power was still getting an extra chunk of taxpayer dollars to fund their failures.
Georgia Power is assessing what to do now that their main contractor has declared bankruptcy, and the Georgia Public Service Commission will have a say in the that plan. Unfortunately the PSC is likely to side with the power company — approving cost overruns and delays — instead of holding Southern Company (the parent company of Georgia Power) accountable and protecting ratepayers.
Georgia Power decided on a risky, environmentally questionable expansion of their power generating capabilities, and Georgia ratepayers and taxpayers have propped them up long enough.
Want to voice your opposition to Georgia Power’s unfair rate increases on schools? You can reach your public service commissioners at the email addresses below.
Doug Everett (District 1) – firstname.lastname@example.org
Tim Echols (District 2) – email@example.com
Chuck Eaton (District 3) – firstname.lastname@example.org
Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, Jr. (District 4) – email@example.com
Stan Wise (District 5) – firstname.lastname@example.org
Give them a call at their Atlanta office at (404) 656-4501 if you’re in the metro Atlanta area and at (800) 282-5813 if you’re outside the metro Atlanta area.