District 3: Lindy Miller (D)
1. Two new nuclear reactors under construction at Plant Vogtle are over-budget and years behind schedule. Should the project continue moving forward? Why?
Plant Vogtle is now one of the most expensive infrastructure projects in the history of our country. I am deeply disappointed in the lack of oversight and accountability demonstrated by our current Commissioners over the nine years since the expansion was first approved. Georgia’s families, small businesses, cities, and schools are paying dearly because the incumbent utterly failed to put in place any meaningful incentives to keep this project on time and on-budget. I believe the project should continue, but only if shareholders—rather than ratepayers—are made to bear the risk of additional cost overruns and only if the Public Service Commission staff can continue to demonstrate that the project is economic over its lifecycle. Our commissioners cannot continue to act as rubber stamps for special interests.
2. Should the Georgia General Assembly amend the Georgia Nuclear Financing Act to limit or prevent Georgia Power from profiting from subsequent project delays?
The overruns at Plant Vogtle have cost Georgians dearly and, due to a lack of meaningful oversight from the Public Service Commission, the utilities stand to profit from these overruns. Those profits have only increased as the project has gone over budget and been delayed. That does not make business sense. It is time to stop the blank check at Plant Vogtle. The job of mitigating risk to ratepayers falls on the Public Service Commission, even though our current Commissioners have utterly failed on this front. The Commission can, and should, manage the risk of subsequent delays by putting in place meaningful financial penalties, tied to project performance.
3. How can the Georgia Public Service Commission encourage investment in, and adoption of, clean energy like solar, wind, and other renewable, zero- to low-carbon resources?
Currently, only 1 percent of Georgia’s energy comes from solar. Consumers and businesses are demanding more renewable energy, but our Commissioners are not able to connect the dots. We are not investing enough in advanced energy and the tens of thousands of jobs that will come with it. There are three immediate opportunities for the Public Service Commission to encourage greater investment in clean energy in Georgia. First, the Commission should work with Georgia Power and other interested stakeholders to double-down on our state’s existing solar programs by approving a sizable increase in new solar capacity in the 2019 Integrated Resource Plan. Second, the Commission should prioritize the removal of barriers to customer adoption of clean energy and ensure these resources are fully and fairly compensated for the benefits they can deliver to our grid. Third, the Commission should ensure all future capacity needs are met through fair, open and truly competitive solicitations.
4. Next year the PSC will adopt Georgia Power’s Integrated Resource Plan. What will you be looking for from the utility in its plan?
We have the third highest utility bills in the country. Even as other Southern states have managed to reduce their energy demand and embrace new technologies, Georgia has fallen behind because of a lack of vision and leadership from the Public Service Commission. We need to bring down bills, create new jobs, and invest in a Georgia that provides opportunities for everyone to earn a good life.
My priorities for the 2019 Integrated Resource Plan include: a sizable increase in Georgia Power’s Renewable Energy Development Initiative, particularly the program targeting commercial and industrial customers; additional investment in energy efficiency and other demand-side resources to take advantage of our state’s enormous untapped potential; the thoughtful, planned retirement of additional coal units, recognizing the impact of such closures on communities in which they operate; and scalable pilot programs that aim to understand the role that distributed resources such as solar, batteries, and electric vehicles can play in meeting future capacity and operational requirements.
5. Should cost be the determining factor in determining what energy sources that utilities use, or should goals like cleaner air and reduced carbon emissions?
We need to produce energy in a way that is affordable, reliable, and that protects our health and Georgia’s natural resources. Cost is an essential factor in determining future energy resource investments, but it should not be the only factor considered by the Public Service Commission. Other important factors include: economic impact (e.g., direct and indirect job creation, rural economic development); environmental impact (e.g., water use, air emissions); and energy security impact (e.g., resource diversity; grid resilience).
6. The Georgia Public Service Commission is one of the most impactful yet overlooked state agencies. What can commissioners do to increase awareness about the PSC’s role, duties, and decisions?
Most people have never heard of the Public Service Commission because the Commissioners do not reach out to their constituents. Commissioners need to prioritize community engagement, be it with schools, civic organizations, business organizations, industry groups, and even individual voters. The Public Service Commission should also lower the barriers for people to participate in high-profile cases. For example, the Commission could conduct field hearings to encourage public participation by Georgians living outside of the metro Atlanta region. We have found through this campaign that Georgians are eager to understand the impact of these seats, which traditionally fly under the radar on their lives and their wallets.