Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Europe's ETS Failures Forecast Problems For US Cap-And-Trade

/PRNewswire/ -- Today, as the Senate contemplates whether now is the time to act on climate proposals, the U.S. Climate Task Force released a new analysis of how Europe's cap-and-trade program has worked in practice. The report, "Europe's Emissions Trading System," by Harvard economist and international trade expert Richard Cooper, details how this approach has produced substantial volatility in the price of carbon, proven to be vulnerable to significant abuses, and has failed to spur any meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

In order for a climate program to achieve significant, long-term effects, Dr. Cooper notes, "a steady, persistent price signal should be sent to all decision-making agents that they should reduce CO2 emissions at all times." Such a signal can be achieved through a revenue-neutral, carbon fee or tax.

"Dr. Cooper's in-depth analysis supports what many long speculated - carbon trading schemes are costly and ineffective," adds Dr. Elaine Kamarck, former senior policy advisor to Vice President Al Gore and current CTF Co-chair. "These failings may explain why a 2009 Hart Research survey found that only two percent of US voters hold very positive view of cap and trade - the system at the core of the current Senate bill. Using the trials and errors of Europe's ETS as guideposts, Washington lawmakers can make a much needed course correction on America's climate policy."

CTF Chair Dr. Robert Shapiro, former U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce and senior advisor to Bill Clinton notes, "the myriad problems inherent in Europe's ETS will only be exacerbated in the US. While permit prices fluctuated from 30 Euros at its height to zero Euros at its five year low, the EU reduced GHG emissions by a mere two percent. If the US Congress truly aims to pass effective, long-term climate legislation - as it must -- a carbon-based tax of the type that been highly successful in Scandinanvia is the only sensible course."

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Southern Company, DOE Agree to Conditional Nuclear Loan Guarantee Terms

PRNewswire -- Southern Company Chairman, President and CEO David M. Ratcliffe on June 18 announced that the company's Georgia Power subsidiary has reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to accept terms for a conditional commitment for loan guarantees.

"This will provide Georgia Power customers significant savings," said Georgia Power President and CEO Mike Garrett.

President Obama and DOE Secretary Steven Chu announced the award of the conditional loan guarantees to Georgia Power on February 16.

"This is another step forward on the road to nuclear power playing a prominent role in America's energy future," said Ratcliffe. "Nuclear energy is vital in any effort to make meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and meet this nation's rising demand for electricity. This conditional commitment is an endorsement of the company's performance as a safe, efficient nuclear operator with strong financial integrity."

The new units will be located at Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro, Ga., where the company already owns and operates two nuclear units. The conditional commitment is for loan guarantees that would apply to future borrowings related to the construction of Vogtle units 3 and 4.

Total guaranteed borrowings would not exceed 70 percent of the company's eligible projected costs, or approximately $3.4 billion, and are expected to be funded by the Federal Financing Bank. Any guaranteed borrowings would be full recourse to Georgia Power and secured by a first priority lien on the company's 45.7 percent ownership interest in the two new units.

Final approval and issuance of the loan guarantees are subject to receipt of the Combined Operating License from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), completion of final agreements, the receipt of any other required regulatory approvals and satisfaction of other conditions. The company received an early site permit and limited work authorization from the NRC for the two additional units in 2009, and site work has begun.

The additions of units 3 and 4 are expected to produce approximately 3,500 jobs during construction and 800 permanent jobs once the units begin operation.

Along with Georgia Power's existing portion of the two 1,100-megawatt reactors, the remaining ownership is split among Oglethorpe Power Corporation, the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and Dalton Utilities. Georgia Power's share of the project cost is currently projected at approximately $6.1 billion, which includes approximately $1.7 billion of financing costs to be collected during construction.

The DOE loan guarantees are expected to save Georgia Power's customers millions in interest costs annually over the expected life of any guaranteed borrowings, based on preliminary estimates. The actual amount of the interest savings will depend upon the final terms and the timing of the specific borrowings and cannot be determined at this time.

Units 3 and 4 are expected to begin commercial operation in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Southern Nuclear, a subsidiary of Southern Company, will oversee the construction as well as operate the two new units for Georgia Power and the other owners. Southern Nuclear currently operates Plant Vogtle's two existing nuclear power units as well as Georgia Power's Plant Hatch nuclear facility near Baxley, Ga., and Alabama Power's Plant Farley nuclear facility near Dothan, Ala.

Georgia Power is the largest subsidiary of Southern Company. The company is an investor-owned, tax-paying utility with rates well below the national average. Georgia Power serves 2.3 million customers in all but four of Georgia's 159 counties.

With 4.4 million customers and more than 42,000 megawatts of generating capacity, Atlanta-based Southern Company (NYSE:SO) is the premier energy company serving the Southeast. A leading U.S. producer of electricity, Southern Company owns electric utilities in four states and a growing competitive generation company, as well as fiber optics and wireless communications. Southern Company brands are known for excellent customer service, high reliability and retail electric prices below the national average. Southern Company is consistently listed among the top U.S. electric service providers in customer satisfaction by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). Visit our Web site at www.southerncompany.com.

Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements:

Certain information contained in this release is forward-looking information based on current expectations and plans that involve risks and uncertainties. Forward-looking information includes, among other things, statements concerning the conditional commitment and DOE loan guarantees, estimated cost savings from DOE loan guarantees, and projected costs of construction and in service dates for Vogtle units 3 and 4. Southern Company and Georgia Power caution that there are certain factors that can cause actual results to differ materially from the forward-looking information that has been provided. The reader is cautioned not to put undue reliance on this forward-looking information, which is not a guarantee of future performance and is subject to a number of uncertainties and other factors, many of which are outside the control of Southern Company and Georgia Power; accordingly, there can be no assurance that such suggested results will be realized. The following factors, in addition to those discussed in the Annual Reports on Form 10-K of Southern Company and Georgia Power for the year ended December 31, 2009, and subsequent securities filings, could cause actual results to differ materially from management expectations as suggested by such forward-looking information: timely receipt of necessary regulatory approvals related to the Plant Vogtle expansion, including Georgia Public Service Commission and NRC approvals; interest rate fluctuations and financial market conditions, including the credit ratings of Southern Company and Georgia Power; satisfaction of all conditions to the final issuance and approval of DOE loan guarantees, including negotiation of final agreements, continuing due diligence by the DOE and receipt of any required regulatory approvals; and the ability to control costs and avoid delays in the construction of Plant Vogtle units 3 and 4, including risks related to shortages and inconsistent quality of equipment, materials and labor, work stoppages, contractor or supplier non-performance under construction or other agreements, adverse weather conditions, unforeseen engineering problems, changes in project design or scope, environmental and geological conditions, and unanticipated cost increases. Southern Company and Georgia Power expressly disclaim any obligation to update any forward-looking information.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Friends of the Earth: Billions of Dollars in Tax Breaks for Each New Reactor Under Kerry-Lieberman Wipe Out Risk for Utilities Already Benefiting From Massive Loan Guarantees

/USNewswire/ -- The nuclear industry could end up facing no risk under massive tax break subsidies in the Kerry-Lieberman climate bill, according to an important new analysis conducted for Friends of the Earth by the research organization Earth Track. These tax breaks totaling $9.7 billion to $57.3 billion (depending on the type and number of reactors) would come on top of the Kerry-Lieberman measure's lucrative $35.5 billion addition to the more than $22.5 billion in loan guarantees already slated for nuclear power.

Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica said: "Doling out an additional $1.3-$3 billion in tax breaks per new reactor means the industry would be at the table playing almost entirely with taxpayer money. Industry will have little to lose when a reactor goes belly up. While taxpayers are bankrolling the industry's nuclear gamble they would share in none of the reactor's financial returns. In fact, all taxpayers will receive if the reactors are built is responsibility for disposing of the waste. By contrast, investors stand to make billions with no risk should their reactor gambit goes belly up and enter bankruptcy."

Earth Track Founder Doug Koplow said: "These substantial tax breaks for new reactors greatly impede market access for competing energy sources and worsen the already substantial risks to taxpayers from a nuclear build-out. As has clearly been shown in U.S. mortgage markets, the likelihood of bad financial decisions rises sharply if only other people's capital is at risk. Kerry-Lieberman's nuclear tax breaks do just this by replacing investor equity with taxpayer money, and allowing investment tax credits to be claimed even before the reactor is operating. The provision to recover credits in the event a reactor is cancelled or suspended is unlikely to be effective in the most likely cause of termination - a bankruptcy due to poor economics."

The memo evaluates three tax break subsidies, describing how they work and estimating their subsidy value to recipients in the nuclear power sector:

-- 5-year accelerated depreciation period for new nuclear power plants
(Kerry-Lieberman section 1121).
-- Investment tax credit (ITC) for nuclear power facilities (K-L section
1122) and the related grants for qualified nuclear power facility
expenditures in lieu of tax credits (K-L section 1126).
-- Modification of credit for production from advanced nuclear power
facilities (K-L section 1124).

According to the Earth Track analysis:
-- The K-L tax breaks would be worth billions per reactor. The new
subsidies will be worth between $1.3 billion and nearly $3.0 billion
on a net present value per new reactor. This is equivalent to between
15 and 20 percent of the total all-in cost of the reactors, as
projected by industry. In fact, the new nuclear tax break subsidies
would be worth 15 to more than 50 percent of the expected market value
of power the plants will produce. This is over and above the many
other subsidies the nuclear projects would already receive.
-- The new K-L tax breaks will undermine equity requirements of the
nuclear loan guarantee program. In theory, the current rules require
investors to hold a 20 percent equity stake in the new project. A key
goal of this requirement is to ensure investors have a strong interest
in the long-term success of the venture. However, the K-L bill would
in effect allow investors to recover funds equal to this equity share
within the first few years of plant operation. Financial risks from
project failure would then rest almost entirely with taxpayers.
-- Total tax subsidies to new reactors could reach tens of billions of
dollars from K-L's two main tax breaks alone. The national cost of
K-L's tax provisions can be benchmarked by evaluating two build-out
scenarios: six reactors, matching the number likely to be supported
under K-L's expanded nuclear loan guarantee pool; and 22 reactors,
matching the number going through NRC licensing as of May 2010. As not
all reactors will be the same type, the calculations assume half are
AP1000s and half Areva EPRs. Under a six-reactor scenario, K-L will
add $9.7 billion to $15.6 billion in tax subsidies to nuclear power.
Under a 22-reactor scenario, the net present value of subsidies on
offer just through 5-year depreciation and ITCs reaches $35.7 billion
to $57.3 billion. Neither of these other subsidies have any national
caps under Kerry-Lieberman.

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

PSC Candidate Tim Echols to headline “Energy Forum” in Savannah, Valdosta, and Marietta

With pending rate increases, an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the looming “Cap and Trade” federal legislation on the horizon, energy is a “hot topic” issue.

Three “forums” are slated to allow the public to listen and discuss the future of energy in the state of Georgia. Two key speakers will be Sam Fleet, the state director for the Pickens Plan, and Tim Echols, candidate for the Public Service Commission, a statewide seat. Other speakers will be announced soon

“Foreign oil is a threat to American safety,” says Fleet. “It’s time to move forward to energy independence and bring more jobs to America and the state of Georgia.”

Echols has been traveling the state promoting nuclear power, renewable energy and the conversion of municipal vehicles to CNG (compressed natural gas). “I think the potential cost overruns for the new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle will be the biggest issue during my six year term,” said Echols. “If Pres. Obama somehow passes Cap and Trade, however, Georgia may face unprecedented energy cost increases in order to comply. It will not be good for our state.”

Stephen Morris, the official organizer of the events, said that many Georgians feel they don’t have enough input into the Public Service Commission hearing process. “These meetings will give the ordinary citizen a chance to listen, learn and offer suggestions to opinion leaders like Fleet and Echols,” said Morrison, a college student from Savannah.

Savannah Event Details: June 16, Wed, 12pm to 1:30pm at the Southwest Chatham Library at 14097 Abercorn Street, Savannah, GA 31419 (behind Target at Savannah Mall)

Valdosta Event Details: June 18, Friday, 12:30pm to 2pm at the Valdosta Library at Valdosta-Lowndes County Library, 300 Woodrow Wilson Drive in Valdosta, Georgia 31602.

Cobb Event Details: June 24, Thursday, 4:30pm to 6:00pm at the East Marietta Public Library, 2051 Lower Roswell Road Marietta, GA 30068-3352.

To see more on Sam Fleet and the Pickens Plan, go to http://www.pickensplan.com/news/2010/05/22/georgia-state-leader-traveling-across-to-georgia-to-support-pickens-plan/

Echols’ newest campaign commercial can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2h3d6MOCRYQ

More information on his criteria for can be found at www.timechols.com

Thursday, June 10, 2010

APOGEE Interactive Websites Take Top Honors in National Rural Electric Cooperative Association Annual Competition

/PRNewswire/ -- APOGEE Interactive, an industry-leading provider of online solutions to energy utilities, dominated the winners' circle in the Best Website category of this year's Spotlight on Excellence competition hosted by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and the Council of Rural Electric Communicators.

Two APOGEE clients earned honors for websites -- the most award winners posted by a single vendor in the Best Website category.

Spotlight on Excellence recognizes electric cooperatives for high-quality communication and marketing efforts. The NRECA member websites were judged on criteria such as relevant and concise text, easy navigation, distinctive appearance, and engaging opportunities for visitor interaction. More than 800 entries were submitted in this year's competition and were judged by faculty members of the distinguished journalism schools at the University of Missouri-Columbia and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Apogee has designed, built and hosts more than 150 utility websites nationwide, many earning a variety of industry accolades each year ranging from NRECA's to the Public Relations Society of America.

Flint Energies Inc. (www.flintenergies.com), a member-owned electric cooperative based in Warner Robins, Ga., won the Award of Excellence in the Best Website category. Flint is one of APOGEE's original website clients dating back to the mid '90s and this winning website version was revamped and redesigned by Apogee in 2009. The site includes a self-serve Home Energy Audit for customers, a HomeEnergySuite with a virtual home 'tour' of energy costs, and a CommercialEnergySuite for business and industry clients - all developed by Apogee.

Georgia EMC (www.georgiaemc.com), the statewide EMC trade association based in Tucker, Ga., and another longtime APOGEE client, earned an Award of Merit. Redesigned and newly launched last year by APOGEE, this site features a comprehensive Members Center for EMC associates, Calendar and Media centers, and numerous pages with information on green power, energy efficiency, statewide legislative initiatives and community outreach.

"We're dedicated to helping our utility clients achieve highly positive website interactions with their members and consumers," said APOGEE President and Chief Executive Officer Susan Gilbert. "In addition to engaging design and intuitive navigation, our expertise also includes compelling energy efficiency tools that are fun and easy to use, which all help create positive user experiences and energy-saving behavior."

APOGEE Interactive Inc. (www.apogee.net)


Founded in 1994, APOGEE is a leading provider of online energy efficiency solutions to energy utilities. The company's energy analysis applications are currently in use by more than 450 utilities across the US, reaching millions of consumers daily, and its website client roster now exceeds 150 companies. APOGEE's clients include leading investor-owned, public power and cooperative energy companies including Flint Energies, Georgia EMC, Marietta Power & Water, Southern Company (SO), Cobb EMC, Con Edison (ED), BGE (CEG), NSTAR (NST), American Electric Power (AEP), Entergy (ETR), SMUD, Puget Sound Energy and Jackson EMC. 

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