Southern Company sees revenues climb on higher fuel prices

Nuclear project at Plant Vogtle is progressing under new timeline.

Southern Company on Thursday said its profits dipped slightly in the first quarter of this year on higher operating costs, but the energy giant’s revenues soared on higher prices of natural gas.

The Atlanta-based power and gas company, which owns Georgia Power, reported profits of $1.03 billion in the first three months of this year compared to $1.14 billion in the quarter a year ago. On a per share basis, profits from January to March were 97 cents vs. $1.07.

The company said its operating revenues were $6.6 billion in the first quarter, up 12.5% from a year ago, marked by rising prices for fuel. The nation has seen its economy grow amid pent-up demand compared to the worst of the pandemic. Fuel prices also have been affected by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Expenses climbed 22% to $5.3 billion. Southern said non-fuel operations and maintenance costs were higher in the first quarter, but that is also reflective of a more normal operating climate compared to a year ago.

“The economies within our Southeast service territories are among the best in the United States, and we believe we are well-positioned to achieve our financial objectives for 2022,” Thomas A. Fanning, Southern’s chairman, president and CEO, said in a news release.

Southern said the Plant Vogtle nuclear expansion remains on schedule with its newest construction timeline after the utility announced in February it was pushing back the expected completion dates for the massive project.

“We continue to work very hard to execute,” Fanning told analysts.

The Plant Vogtle expansion, which includes the only new nuclear power units under construction in the nation, is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget.

Many of Georgia Power’s customers already are paying Vogtle’s financing costs ahead of the project’s completion through increased rates.

ExploreFrom February: Georgia’s Vogtle nuclear expansion hit with new delays, costs

The plant’s new Unit 3 is slated to come online between December 2022 and March 2023. Unit 4 is scheduled to be operational between September 2023 and December 2023.

Southern and its partners on the nuclear project — Oglethorpe Power, MEAG Power and Dalton Utilities — recently voted unanimously to continue construction. And a Nuclear Regulatory Commission special inspection was recently completed, clearing previous issues that had plagued the project.