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City to receive a share of Vogtle power
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After originally requesting 35 megawatts of Plant Vogtle nuclear power from the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia, the city of Covington has been granted 26 MW at a cost of $102.4 million.

The nuclear power is expected to become available by 2018. The two new Vogtle units will be located near Waynesboro. The state and federal government are still reviewing the project, which is being led by Georgia Power.

MEAG will retain a 22.7 percent ownership interest, estimated at $3.1 billion, in the new units, according to a Tuesday press release from the organization.

"This is a significant decision made by the mayor and council based on guidance from MEAG officials, in-house expertise and two independent power consulting firms," said Covington Mayor Kim Carter in an e-mailed statement. "While this purchase is pending final regulatory review, we are pleased to have secured the most environmentally-friendly power for our citizens for the next four decades."

The city will get 20 MW of Vogtle power when it becomes available in 10 years and will defer the remaining 6.264 MW until 2038.

Even though the city did not get the requested 35 MW, City Utility Director Bill Meecham said he was satisfied with the allotment.

"I feel pretty good, especially since we'd gotten the initial 20 (MW) that will address our needs 10 years out," Meecham said. "When you're looking a long ways in the distance, I think it's better that we adopt 'a wait and see attitude.'"

The cost of the new power will be paid for by Covington through its wholesale power purchases from MEAG. MEAG will take out bonds for its share of Vogtle units. Each MW of power is estimated to cost $3.9 million.

While utility costs can be expected to increase in the future, Meecham said the long-term costs of Plant Vogtle are likely to be less expensive than the costs of building new coal or natural gas plants as Congress is expected to pass some form of a cap and trade plan on carbon dioxide emissions. Presumptive party nominees for president, Barack Obama and John McCain have both said they would support a cap and trade plan.

With new alternative energy innovations being announced every month, Meecham speculated that the future of energy in Georgia during the next 30 years will likely be very different than it is now, especially in fields such as solar power.

"We don't know yet, the whole trend of power resources could change where a portion of it is generated at the customer's site," Meecham said, referencing research currently taking place on the possible applications of photovoltaic solar cells to rooftop houses.

The new Plant Vogtle units are expected to have a life expectancy of 50 years Meecham said.

Of MEAG's 49 member cities, 41 opted to purchase the new nuclear power, including the city of Mansfield, which purchased .309 MW. Oxford, Newton County's third MEAG participant, chose not to purchase any power.

Covington's allocation of 26.264 MW was one of the largest allocations of Vogtle power from MEAG. Only five other cities were allocated more power than Covington. Marietta was allocated the largest amount at 65 MW.

Vogtle power that MEAG participants are not projected to need until 30 years from now will be leased to the Jacksonville Electric Authority and PowerSouth Energy Cooperative in Florida and Alabama respectively, according to the press release.

Carter said Covington is currently looking into securing additional base-load power to get the city thorough the summer months, when residents use the most electricity.