Profits and sales dip for Georgia Power’s parent company

Atlanta-based Southern Company, the parent of Georgia Power, saw revenue fall last year compared to the year before, in part, it said because of the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. It's profits also took, affected in part by continued struggles in its long-delayed nuclear power expansion at Plant Vogtle south of Augusta.
Atlanta-based Southern Company, the parent of Georgia Power, saw revenue fall last year compared to the year before, in part, it said because of the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. It's profits also took, affected in part by continued struggles in its long-delayed nuclear power expansion at Plant Vogtle south of Augusta.

Atlanta-based Southern Company, the parent of Georgia Power and Atlanta Gas Light, saw its revenue and net income drop last year, despite rate increases allowed by state regulators.

Ripple effects from COVID-19 took a toll, as did milder weather. Both cut into electricity use, according to a Southern regulatory filing Thursday. And the company saw more problems on its long delayed, multi-billion-dollar nuclear power expansion at Plant Vogtle.

The company took $325 million in charges last year — about $176 million of it in the last three months of 2020 — for probable losses on the construction.

Southern warned in its filing that it will be a challenge to have the first of two new Vogtle units in commercial operation in November as currently planned. A spike in COVID-19 cases among workers slowed the project, Southern said.

Delays would increase project costs. The extra expenses eventually could be passed along to Georgia consumers and businesses.

Even before the pandemic, independent monitors and staff of the Georgia Public Service Commission warned that the company was falling further behind on Vogtle. They concluded the project was unlikely to meet its deadline or stay within its latest budget, even without factoring in impacts from the coronavirus.

Southern Chief Executive Officer Tom Fanning told analysts Thursday that Vogtle project workers might get COVID-19 vaccinations “in a month or so. But that is highly uncertain.”

Fanning also said Southern will work with the Biden administration to speed up the company’s goal of reaching what it calls “net zero” carbon emissions. Southern’s aim was 2050. The administration is interested in cutting that to the year 2035.

Southern’s operating revenue in 2020 shrank nearly 5% to $20.4 billion, compared to $21.4 billion the year before. The company’s annual net income fell to $3.1 billion, down from $4.7 billion in 2019.

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