Georgia’s Integrated Resource Planning Act, which was passed in 1991 and is now Georgia Code § 46-3A, requires that any proposed new electric plant receive certification by the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) before construction begins. A utility is entitled to recover pre-approved costs after a plant is built or canceled. In 2009, the Georgia Legislature passed the Georgia Nuclear Energy Financing Act which allowed Georgia utilities to recover from its customers the costs of financing associated with the construction of a nuclear plant that has been certified by the Georgia Public Service Commission, during the nuclear plant’s construction phase.
To receive certification, a utility must demonstrate to the PSC that the proposed project will “assure an economical and reliable supply of electric power and energy for the Georgia retail customers” by using cost-benefit analysis and a cur- rent integrated resource plan, which includes demand and supply forecasts. Once a project has been certified, a utility is entitled to recover all costs that do not exceed those approved by the PSC in the certification docket, so long as those costs are not the product of “fraud, concealment, failure to disclose a material fact, imprudence, or criminal misconduct.” Conversely, if the costs are in excess of the amount approved in the certification docket, then the utility must show that the costs were reasonable and prudent. Certification implies pre-approval of costs specified in the application. Granting of a certificate is not dependent solely on the project being least cost.
If an application for a certificate of public convenience and necessity is not acted upon by the PSC within the prescribed review period (300 days after original filing, 180 days after subsequent filings), the certificate shall be deemed granted by law.
Modification or revocation of the certificate can be requested by either the PSC or the utility if demand forecasts change, costs change, etc. If the PSC revokes the certificate, the utility can recover through rates what it has already spent, plus the carrying cost of the unamortized portion of the investment, over a reasonable period of time.
During construction, the utility will file a progress report every one to three years with proposed revisions to cost estimates and construction schedule. If the PSC does not approve or disapprove those revisions within 180 days, the revisions are deemed approved by law. If disapproval by the PSC of all or part of the requested revisions leads to cancellation of the project, the utility may recover its actual investment in the partially completed project and collect the carrying cost of the unamortized balance of the project.
When the project is completed, the utility may add to its rate base the construction costs that do not exceed costs approved by the PSC (either in the original certificate or through approved revisions). Inclusion of excess costs will be permitted if shown to have been reasonable and prudent.
“Compliance with the provisions of the certificate as approved or modified by the commission shall result in a presumption of prudence.”