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Georgia Power: Plant Vogtle’s Unit 4 placed into commercial operation

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(The Center Square) — Georgia Power has placed Unit 4 at Plant Vogtle into commercial operation seven years behind the initial plan and roughly four months after a state agency approved an agreement that left Georgia Power ratepayers with a $7.5 billion bill for construction costs.

The company said the unit can produce enough electricity to power roughly 500,000 homes and businesses and is poised to provide energy for at least 60 years. According to Georgia Power, Vogtle’s Unit 3 began commercial operation on July 31, 2023, and with all four units online, the company touted Plant Vogtle as the nation’s largest generator of “clean energy.”

“Georgia has done what no other state could do by completing the first nuclear project from scratch in more than three decades,” PSC Commissioner Tim Echols said in a statement. “We now have the largest clean energy site in North America.”

In a release, the PSC said it planned to monitor Vogtle’s units “to ensure the units operate as designed.”

Georgia Power previously said that pending “appropriate approvals,” Vogtle Unit 3 would be operational in 2016 and Unit 4 the following year. In December, the Georgia Public Service Commission approved an agreement that left Georgia Power ratepayers with a $7.5 billion bill for Plant Vogtle construction costs.

“The completion of the expansion of the Vogtle nuclear generation plant to include Unit 3 and now Unit 4 is a hallmark achievement for Southern Company, the state of Georgia and the entire United States,” Chris Womack, chairman, president and CEO of Southern Company, said in an announcement.

According to officials, Georgia Power expected to spend more than $10.7 billion on Vogtle Units 3 and 4, higher than the nearly $7.3 billion estimate the PSC previously deemed “reasonable.” Georgia Power previously indicated that “average retail rates” would increase by roughly 5%, and “a typical resident customer using 1,000 kWh per month” could see their monthly bill rise by $8.95.

While the PSC noted that some consumer groups and trade organizations signed the agreement, others called for the feds to investigate.

“This is the most expensive power plant on earth, clocking in at $36.851 billion for just 2,234 MWs of energy,” Patty Durand, former president of the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative and a recent candidate for the Georgia PSC, told The Center Square via email. “That does not include the last six months of cost accumulation, which will likely drive final costs much closer to or even at $40 billion. This is an insane amount of money – nearly 10 times more than the cost any other generation would have been, for this relatively small amount of energy.

“…If you throw enough money at something, and wait long enough, anything can be built. That is not a win,” Durand added. “This is a tragedy for the people of Georgia and not something to be celebrated. We live in a robber baron era when it comes to monopoly utilities and there is no state or federal protection to prevent Georgia Power from harming Georgians through monopoly overreach and abuse.”

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