On Thursday, Jacksonville public utility JEA suffered yet another setback in its attempt to escape a nuclear power deal with a Georgia power consortium.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission dismissed JEA’s request to intervene in an ongoing dispute with the Municipal Electrical Authority of Georgia over Plant Vogtle construction costs.
The city committed to buy power from Vogtle in 2008, but has wanted out of the deal of late. Conditions ranging from flat revenue streams and escalating costs to cheaper power elsewhere have become more pressing concerns.
The complaint was found to be out of jurisdiction, as MEAG itself is “not a public utility,” and “the Commission has no authority … to review or approve (or alternatively disprove) the wholesale sales of electricity in interstate commerce from MEAG to JEA pursuant to the PPA.”
MEAG issued a press release extolling the decision Thursday, noting that its contention that the U.S. District Court of Georgia is the proper forum for the dispute with JEA. JEA would like the case to be heard in state court; however, the federal Department of Energy joins MEAG in seeking local, federal jurisdiction.
JEA voiced displeasure with Thursday’s setback.
“While JEA has stood up for the customers of JEA, to see federal officials in Washington D.C. vote in such a manner not only sends a message that the ratepayers in Florida don’t matter, it should send shockwaves to public power around the nation. The vote clearly shows a preferred support for corporate interests over customer concerns.” said JEA CEO and Managing Director Aaron Zahn.
“Today, JEA customers were denied a just and reasonable hearing for their desire for cheaper sources of cleaner power – which is available to all of JEA customers currently bound by this failed project.”
JEA’s attempts to escape the Plant Vogtle deal have thus far been thwarted at every turn, with negative consequences including dings to credit ratings last year.
JEA and Georgia’s Municipal Electric Authority are at loggerheads over the future of the $27 billion Plant Vogtle, with lawsuits filed by each side.
JEA wants out of the deal. However, the four Georgia utility companies involved in construction of the nuclear facility had budgeted for cost overruns, and have decided to move forward with the project.
The utility is on a negative credit watch from Standard & Poor’s, due to “questions about the quality of the utility’s internal controls … [and] the utility’s willingness to meet its contractual financial obligations.”
Estimated completion dates of the new nuclear units remain Nov. 2021 for Unit 3, and Nov. 2022 for Unit 4.