Tea Party Turns on Georgia Nuke, Pushes Solar

June 4, 2013


Man bites Dog.

I guess somebody in the Tea Party reads this blog.

AP via Salon:

ATLANTA (AP) — Tea party activists in Georgia are taking what appears to be a rare stand on energy, challenging a power utility’s reluctance to increase solar energy and questioning the ballooning costs of building a nuclear power plant.

The Atlanta Tea Party’s action is relatively unusual among loosely linked tea party organizations nationally.

Other tea party groups have condemned the adoption of “smart” utility meters that transmit information about customer usage, due to concerns that they would intrude on customers’ privacy. Or they have broadly backed less reliance on foreign energy.

But relatively few have endorsed so specific an energy platform in their own backyards, much less promised to campaign on it.

Miami Herald:

“It certainly isn’t anything personal, but one of our core values is promoting the free-market system,” said Julianne Thompson, a co-founder of the Atlanta Tea Party.

The electricity market in Georgia is not a free market. State law gives electric utilities, including Georgia Power, exclusive rights to serve customers in designated areas of the state. Most customers cannot choose their provider.

While monopolies have more power to charge higher prices than firms in competitive markets, there are times when it makes sense to allow them if their prices are regulated.

It would be more expensive to build more than one system of electric wires or natural gas pipelines to deliver power and fuel to every home in a state. Customers are better off if just one system is built and maintained, as long as the company that runs the system is prohibited by regulators from using its monopoly power to drive up prices.

In many states, including Texas and most of the Northeast, power delivery is regulated, but customers can choose who provides their electricity. Customers in those states can choose from companies that provide such options as renewable power or a slate of pricing options, including fixed rates, rates that vary with market fluctuations, or rates that vary based on when during the day power is used.

Georgia Power makes a natural political foil for the tea party. A 2011 poll conducted by Yale University and George Mason University found that tea party members were far more likely than Democrats, Republicans or independents to distrust central authority and strongly opposed energy policies that raise costs, even if there are other benefits.

Yale University researcher Anthony Leiserowitz, who worked on the poll, said he was not surprised local tea party supporters might challenge a monopoly.

“That totally taps into that same sense that there are these big, institutional forces against which you’re a little guy and you need to rebel,” he said.

The tea party groups are also targeting Georgia Power over the rising cost to build two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle. The utility’s share of the project was supposed to cost $6.1 billion, but Georgia Power is seeking permission to raise its budget to $6.85 billion – and cautioned that costs may still increase.

Why You've Heard of Solyndra, but not Vogtle

Dooley’s group is particularly peeved that Georgia lawmakers are allowing the utility to charge its customers for the project’s finance costs before it produces power. This year, tea party members supported legislation from Rep. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick, that would trim the utility’s profits if it goes over budget building the plant. Chapman’s bill did not pass, though it could be considered next year.


Georgia Power argues the plant makes economic sense in the long run. The utility says the nuclear plant will be immune to swings in natural gas prices and will not be affected by limits on carbon emissions if they are enacted in the years to come.

Dooley said she supports nuclear power but wants more accountability. Under state law, Georgia Power’s customers must pay for the nuclear plant unless regulators find its costs were unreasonable.

“They are guaranteed to make a profit on the cost overruns,” Dooley said. “What incentive is there to come in on budget, on time?”

Master Resource “A Free Market Energy Blog”:

The already bad news got still worse–not surprising for a project that is all but financially insulated from its own failure. As I previously wrote at MasterResource:

With a pending $8.6 billion federal loan guarantee, a cap on liability, production tax credits and pre-collection of profits this makes Georgia Power the nation’s biggest welfare queen.

Georgia Power’s latest report to state regulators indulges in self-praise, shifts blame for growing problems, and employs misleading analysis. The Company asks the GPSC to approve an additional $737 million in cost and add 15 months to the project’s schedule. Since Georgia Power has 45.7% ownership, the entire $14 billion project has additional cost of over $1.6 billion.

Still, Georgia Power sports an A+ rating credit rating. Why? Because regulators are expected to approve this and future cost overruns for automatic recovery. This would include adverse litigation judgements (see below).


22 Responses to “Tea Party Turns on Georgia Nuke, Pushes Solar”

  1. MorinMoss Says:

    Michelle Batshit quits and already there are hints of sanity in the Tea Party?
    Perhaps there is hope, after all.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      my biggest argument with the Tea Party has always been that they are not conservatives. would be nice if they actually became what they claim to be.

  2. andrewfez Says:

    Whatever happened to those 3rd generation nuke plants (or whatever they’re called) that use spent fuel from the older plants, turning junk that would have been radioactive for thousands of years into junk that is just radioactive for a few hundred years?

    If they’re gonna put up $8B, they should have at least made one of those…

    • greenman3610 Says:

      the reason we have not seen them, is that no one has yet demonstrated that technology on commercial scale over a long enough time to attract investment. It might indeed be a good idea, but by the time it’s perfected, renewables will own the utility space.

  3. daveburton Says:

    You didn’t shrink that solar price graph quite enough. By blowing it up, I could still read it. It says, “2013 price $0.74/Watt FORECAST.”

    That is very wildly optimistic.

    Electricity is priced per kW-hour, and where I live the retail price is about $0.11/kW-hr. So your solar price graph would seem to be for installation price, not cost of electricity. But 0.74 x 1000 / 0.11 = 6727 hours = just 9 months.

    If anyone thinks that a solar installation can pay for itself in 9 months in NC, then I think you and Tinkerbell need to stay away from those ‘shrooms.

    So maybe your graph is for “nameplate” capacity? But the numbers are still way too low. Even with a 10% to 15% estimated capacity factor, at the price in your graph it still would take only 5-8 years to pay for itself.

    If anyone thinks a PV installation can break even in eight years in NC without subsidies, then I just know you’re gonna love this sweet deal I have for you on a bridge in Brooklyn.

    So maybe your graph is just the solar cells themselves, without inverters, mounting systems, or even shipping from China (where they’re all made)?

    But even then, the numbers are still way too low. Here’s just a cheap polycrystalline panel for sale in China via the wild and woolly world of AliExpress, for $1.40/watt maximum output (nameplate capacity). That’s just the panels alone, so it does not take account of conversion and transmission losses, nor of the costs of the other things that are needed for a solar installation.

    We’re already 42% of they way through 2013, so what do you think the chances are that by the end of the year even bare solar panel prices will be as low as the “forecast” average 2013 price in that graph?

    The reason Solar Power advocates are so frantic for gov’t subsidies, and why solar power companies so frequently go bankrupt, and why installing solar “farms” drives up electricity prices, is that the technology is a long way from being cost competitive with other grid-connected power sources.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      you can argue it all you want, and you can flack the Fox News talking points all you want, but you can’t stop the unstoppable.
      Solar is unstoppable, no matter what you think the price is now, because we know that it is more than competitive with the cost of peak electricity, (in the afternoon, when solar performs best) particularly in the southwest.
      This means utilities will keep buying more of it, and their customers will keep installing it, and manufacturers will keep making more of it, and mass production, as people who actually believe in the free market will tell you, makes things cheaper.
      So you can argue whether it’s competitive now, or in 2 years, 5 years, or 10 years ( which is, in effect, NOW, for electrical grid planning) – it is coming, it is disruptive, and we’d better be ready, or the transition will be bumpy.

    • Interesting concept that daveburton insists is important – pay back time.

      Purchase and install a PV system, and after a certain amount of time you have “paid” for the equipment. But, at that point, you also have no more expenses to generate electricity. And, you are not generating greenhouse gases, so the downstream mitigation costs are zero.

      But with fossil fuel electricity generation – after a certain period of time, you have generated enough electricity to “pay off” the cost of the equipment. But after that point, you are still have huge expenses, because unlike sunlight, you have to keep buying fossil fuel to burn. A cost that will only get higher. And, you are continuing to produce large amounts of greenhouse gases, so you are also adding huge expenses to long-term mitigation costs. Essentially, there is no real pay back point for fossil fuels, there is only pay, pay, and pay some more.

      So, please daveburton, take your so-called economic analysis and shove it. Like most of your arguments here, it is inherently dishonest.

  4. […] Man bites Dog. I guess somebody in the Tea Party reads this blog. AP via Salon: ATLANTA (AP) — Tea party activists in Georgia are taking what appears to be a rare stand on energy, challenging a pow…  […]

  5. joffan7 Says:

    Basically the Tea Party doesn’t like spending on infrastructure. They are a bunch of asset-strippers, cashing in societal value without investing in the future.

    I would question how strong their interest in solar is here, too. It reads from the article(s) like it’s just Debbie Dooley. I doubt I would hear her supporting feed-in tariffs or grid upgrades, but I could be pleasantly surprised.

    Your inserted graph of rising budgets is for Vogtle 1, not the current plants.

    The bottom of the containment vessel for Vogtle 3 was placed at the weekend, with plenty of other components ready for installation also. http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN-Installation_of_Vogtle_3_containment_starts-0406135.html

  6. stephengn1-more news about the Vogtle reactor vessel. bad news.
    Last week, a special railroad car carrying a 300-ton reactor vessel for the Vogtle reactor construction project experienced problems and dumped the massive pressure vessel on the ground. Now, an attempt to move the pressure vessel by rail was aborted after the shipment traveled less than a mile before returning to be stored at the Port of Savannah.

    • joffan7 Says:

      The reactor vessel stayed on the train. Fuzzy photo forensics by wishful thinkers notwithstanding.

      And fix your tense; that baseless rumor was months ago. The reactor vessel was delivered to site after the rail problem was resolved.

  7. Yea, the picture does not show the vessel over the side of the rail car. Its just a baseless rumor by all the newspapers in Georgia. It was all planned that way. Right.
    How about the utilities credit? Not so good?
    Infighting and cost overruns?
    Utilities profit from cost overruns?
    Its all good.

    • joffan7 Says:

      Glad you admitted your deception. Things may be turning around for you. And the newspapers never subscribed to your view of things.

      A basic review of how Schabel cars work would have saved you the embarrassment of believing the photo dramatists.

  8. […] a striking parallel to recent (surprising) Tea Party skepticism about nuclear energy in Georgia, the sensible, wind savvy folk in Iowa recently turned down new nuclear power, and doubled down on a […]

  9. […] posted about the awakening of a renewable energy movement among Republicans and Tea Party conservatives.  Even the New York Times is now recognizing this […]

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