(The Center Square) – The Georgia Public Service Commission and its public interest advocacy staff have approved Georgia Power’s latest round of spending on the construction of Plant Vogtle.
An expansion of the nuclear plant in Waynesboro, which started in 2013, is supposed to accommodate the state’s growing population. Georgia Power and Southern Nuclear are building two additional nuclear energy facilities, Unit 3 and Unit 4.
The project has been riddled with delays. Unit 3 was supposed to be operational by 2016, and Unit 4 by 2017. Company officials now say Unit 3 will not be operational until 2022, and Unit 4 will be ready by 2023.
Officials said the COVID-19 pandemic and issues during final testing on Unit 3 caused additional delays. Those delays add millions of more dollars to the construction costs.
The original price tag for the project was $14 billion, but it is now estimated to cost around $27 billion for all parties involved. Georgia Power has spent $7.2 billion on the construction of the units, as of December.
An agreement unanimously approved Tuesday by the commission green lights $670 million in expenses from July to December. Southern Company Senior Vice President of Nuclear Development David McKinney said the company spent $150 million to $190 million on COVID-19-related expenses through May.
Georgia Power also agreed to continue to report the progress and cost of the project to the commission semiannually. The company, however, no longer will need approval for the expenses until the two units are completed. The construction costs have surpassed its forecast of $7.3 billion, “deemed reasonable” by the commission in January 2018.
Officials estimate the project now could cost more than $9 billion, but they will not recover about $694 million from consumers.
The agreement, however, does not stop the company from increasing customer rates because of the construction costs in the future.
Georgia Power customers already cover a share of construction costs. Rates have increased up to 3.4%. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the average price for a residential customer in Georgia is 10.49 cents per kilowatt-hour. The average commercial customer pays 9.96 cents per kilowatt-hour, and industrial customers pay an average of 5.55 cents per kilowatt-hour, EIA data shows.
Company officials said the new units would contribute to their net-zero carbon emissions goals and create 800 permanent jobs. Georgia Power said customers are expected to save about $556 million in financing costs overall in the long run, they said.