Counterflow: The Devil Went Down to Georgia

Guest Blog | February 12, 2018 | Energy Policy, Nuclear

This blog was originally posted here by Steve Huntoon at RTO Insider on January 22, 2018. An excerpt is below, published with permission. Steve Huntoon is a former president of the Energy Bar Association, with 30 years of experience advising and representing energy companies and institutions. He received a B.A. in economics and a J.D. from the University of Virginia. He is the principal attorney in Energy Counsel, LLP. 

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Counterflow: The Devil Went Down to Georgia

“Johnny, rosin up your bow and play your fiddle hard,
’Cause hell’s broke loose in Georgia and the Devil deals the cards.”

There’s a process problem with the Georgia Public Service Commission’s Vogtle decision, and there’s a substance problem.

Process Problem

Georgia commissioners publicly and vehemently stated that Vogtle should be completed. [1] And then they had a hearing on whether Vogtle should be completed. See the problem?

Regulators are supposed to make reasoned decisions based on records. It’s hard to do that before you have a record.

“Sentence first! Verdict afterwards,” as the Queen said in “Alice in Wonderland.

Substance Problem

Last September, my column showed that the original “need” for Vogtle, in the form of a projected increase in customer demand, had basically disappeared. [2] And with simplifying assumptions favorable to Vogtle, and using Lazard cost estimates, completing Vogtle would impose excess costs of $23.6 billion on Georgia consumers over the next 40 years.

Here’s a quick quiz: After eight years of construction, what percent of Vogtle is constructed? Answer in footnote below.[3]

To find out the answer to the quiz and read Mr. Huntoon’s full column, please click here. (Please note, RTO Insider allows you to view two free articles per month.)

[1] “I do want to see this project completed,” said PSC Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald. “I do not like to see failure.” http://www.ajc.com/business/georgia-power-told-its-homework-vogtle-nuke-options/mnHqeJ7BdDza0U25xAxfbP/. “As an unabashed supporter of nuclear power,” [PSC Chairman Stan] Wise wrote, “I intend to be present for that vote and will resign shortly thereafter so that you may appoint my successor prior to the (candidate) qualifying period for the 2018 elections.” http://politics.myajc.com/news/state–regional-govt–politics/psc-wise-quit-after-vogtle-vote-governor-can-appoint-successor/Dv6bJbPTpNupmLUUe83f8J/. Commissioner Tim Echols said: “The last thing I want to do to my ratepayers is to say, ‘Look, I spent $4.5 billion of your money, and you have nothing to show for it.’ That’s a formula for getting unelected, as far as I’m concerned.” https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/the-nuclear-power-war-isnt-over-yet#gs.1G0g8AQ. Echols went on to write an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal and an article for Public Utilities Fortnightly in full-throated advocacy for completing Vogtle, all before the hearing on whether to complete Vogtle.

[2] http://energy-counsel.com/docs/Vogtle-the-Law-of-Holes-and-Two-Modest-Proposals.pdf. The column also showed that the fuel diversity argument for Vogtle was vacuous.

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