Originally created 05/20/05

Prospect of new power plant arises



Georgia Power could have a new nuclear plant by 2015, Southern Co. President and CEO David Ratcliffe said Thursday.

"Nuclear power is as safe and benign, as predictable and as reliable as the energy sources we have anywhere," Mr. Ratcliffe told 300 people attending the spring membership meeting of the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce at Radisson Riverfront Hotel Augusta.

Southern Co., the parent of Georgia Power, uses energy sources that include coal, hydropower, nuclear power and oil and natural gas.

The reliance on coal and natural gas, which have increased in cost, has required Southern Co. to boost its rates, Mr. Ratcliffe said.

On Tuesday, state regulators approved an increase of $475 million a year for Georgia Power to cover fuel costs. This means that, starting June 1, residential customers will see an additional $6.39, on average, on their monthly bills.

"We're not excited about raising prices any more than customers are about paying for them," Mr. Ratcliffe said.

It's not to make a profit, he added.

Earlier this year, a $3.10 monthly increase in Georgia Power went into effect to cover infrastructure costs, such as plants and power lines. That was the first base rate increase since 1991, Mr. Ratcliffe said.

Georgia Power is the largest of Southern Co.'s five electric utilities, supplying electricity to more than 2 million customers in the state. It's also the primary owner of Vogtle Electric Generating Plant, a nuclear operation near Waynesboro, Ga.

If Southern Co. gets government approval for a new nuclear plant, it would be built at either Plant Vogtle or Plant Farley in Dothan, Ala., Mr. Ratcliffe said.

Don't expect anything soon, however. Gaining approval to build and operate is an arduous process, Mr. Ratcliffe said. He and other energy leaders are working with government leaders to speed up this process, but it still takes years to develop nuclear power plans.

The company president started his career with Southern Co. as a biologist for Georgia Power in 1971. He has served as CEO of Mississippi Power and Georgia Power and was elected president of Southern Co. in 2003.

In other chamber news, Georgia Bank & Trust Co. was presented the annual Drugs Don't Work award for its work in drug prevention.

James Kendrick, the chairman of the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce, also took time to recognize the chamber's director of military affairs, Thom Tuckey, for his work in keeping Fort Gordon off the Pentagon's recommended 2005 base-closure list.

The crowd responded with a standing ovation.

AT A GLANCE

Southern Co.

Operating companies: Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Gulf Power, Mississippi Power and Savannah Electric

Power sources: 69 percent coal, 16 percent nuclear, 3 percent hydro and 12 percent oil and gas

Customers: 4,197,000

2004 operating revenues: $11.9 billion

Net income: $1.53 billion

Georgia Power

Employees: 8,800

Customers: 2 million, in 153 of Georgia's 159 counties

Source: southerncompany.com

Offices might move

Georgia Power Vice President Walter Dukes on Thursday said the company is considering moving its Augusta executive offices from Walton Way to downtown.

Mr. Dukes said the company is focusing on Broad Street. The office would house Mr. Dukes and four to five other company executives.

"I'm hoping it encourages some other corporations to move their offices downtown," Mr. Dukes said.

He said he expects a lease to be signed within a few weeks.

- From staff reports