6 Questions for Georgia’s Public Service Commissioner Candidates

District 3: Ryan Graham (L)

Ryan Graham Public Service Commissioner Candidate Georgia Election 2018
Ryan Graham

Photograph courtesy of Ryan Graham Campaign

Libertarian Ryan Graham is a project manager in software development and lives in Atlanta. This would be his first elected office.

1. Two new nuclear reactors under construction at Plant Vogtle are over-budget and years behind schedule. Should the project continue moving forward? Why?

I would have never approved the project in the first place. The structure of the budget is such that there is absolutely no accountability. Georgia Power is allowed to continue siphoning money from ratepayers—including a profit—with no budget cap and no set incentives to keep them in check. The Vogtle project was approved with a $14 billion budget and a completion date of 2016-17. Last December, it was revised to $25 billion and a completion date of 2021-22. Just eight months later, it was revised again to increase by $2.3 billion. There is no end in sight to this thing, and there are no caps associated with the project.

2. Should the Georgia General Assembly amend the Georgia Nuclear Financing Act to limit or prevent Georgia Power from profiting from subsequent project delays?

Yes. The Georgia General Assembly recently sunset any future use of the Georgia Nuclear Financing Act so that no one else could take advantage of it, but I don’t think that went far enough. That Georgia Power is allowed to profit during the construction of a capital project before the plant produces so much as a watt of power is criminal. If investors were voluntarily putting capital toward the project and then providing oversight, this would not be allowed to happen, and it isn’t how any other industry does business. Investments should involve risk, and, in time, provide dividends to those who bought in. The current project is setup to socialize costs and privatize gains, quite possibly the worst of both worlds.

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?

The best way to encourage investment in clean energy is to get out of the way. Regulations make it extremely burdensome to invest in these types of technologies. I’d like to see a deep dive into what is stopping people from entering the market and what we can do to break down those barriers. I believe the will is there in Georgia to go far and above the 2 percent solar in our electric mix. If farmers have extra land, they should be able to prop up solar panels on their property and sell it back to the grid (right now, it’s capped). Same for residential users.

4. Next year the public service commissioner will adopt Georgia Power’s Integrated Resource Plan. What will you be looking for from the utility in its plan?

Many variables go into the Integrated Resource Plan, but I think the process we use to determine electric mix is fundamentally flawed as it assumes to know the hearts and minds of Georgians. Diversity of thoughts and needs is something that will always be true of a large population such as Georgia’s. That’s why I want to deregulate electricity. Demand should dictate production. The people of Georgia should be able to have their voices heard in how electricity is generated. If someone values green energy over cost, they should be able to purchase green energy. If someone values cost over all else because they are working paycheck to paycheck and need to put food on the table, then they should be able to purchase cheap electricity produced by gas.

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?

See my answer above. I don’t believe any five elected officials have the ability to make those sorts of decisions for 10.5 million Georgians. The people know what is best for themselves and their loved ones and should be trusted to make a decision that is best for them.

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 public service commissioner’s role, duties, and decisions?

In the end this shows a fundamental flaw with the system we have in Georgia. The most common question I get when I tell people I’m running for Public Service Commission is, “What’s that?” That is a problem and not one that I think is necessarily fixable. We can try to get out on social media more, speak to the public more, but in the end only those in the industries regulated have enough incentive to pay attention to what’s going on. That’s why I want to put the power of the public service commissioner back in the hands of Georgians. They can and should make these types of decisions for themselves so that they are more invested in the process. Five elected officials should not and can not make these decisions for everyone. That’s why I want to empower Georgians to power themselves.