Groups plan to rally against Georgia Power rate increase

Our guest columnist says one particularly bad characteristic of Georgia Power’s proposal is that customers who use the least energy would be hurt the most. John McCosh/Georgia Recorder

Georgia Power’s $2.2 billion rate increase hearing gets underway Monday and a dozen organizations plan to protest proposed higher electric bills outside the Public Service Commission’s offices.

The Sierra Club of Georgia and 11 other conservation and consumer advocacy organizations are expected at a 4 p.m. demonstration in downtown Atlanta.

Georgia Power’s plan calls for the average residential consumer to pay about $200 more per year by 2022, or about 25% more than today.

The public service commission is scheduled to decide the case by Dec. 17, the planned end date of a series of hearings this fall.

“We’re just trying to shine a little light on the decision-making process and remind people we have elected officials who are deciding this,” said Stephen Stetson, a senior campaign representative of the Sierra Club.

Some opponents of Georgia Power’s plan say a higher base rate would disproportionately harm people living on a fixed income and fail to encourage people to conserve energy.

Georgia Power is asking the commission’s approval to phase in the residential base rate increase – the minimum amount customers pay for electric service – from $10 to $17.95 by 2022.

“It’s anti-consumer because it takes away a customer’s ability to control costs with energy use,” said Chris Carnevale, a spokesman for Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Georgia Power is requesting the rate and fee increases to help recover $450 million in storm damage expenses and for an additional $1.3 billion for investments in the electrical grid.

It also expects to spend $525 million to close 29 coal ash ponds as well as meet other air and water pollution requirements.

The Sierra Club says one of its experts will argue customers shouldn’t get the tab for remediating the dozen toxic ash ponds at coal-fired plants. 

“We think the company ought to be responsible for cleanup process and not pass that onto customers,”  Stetson said.

During this week’s proceedings, a Georgia Power panel of executives will hear from commission staff and 13 interested parties, that include other environmental and consumer advocacy groups, trade associations, MARTA, Kroger, and the U.S. Department of Defense.

The state commission will get a chance to interview those groups and its own commission staff at hearings set for Nov. 4 to 7.

“Georgia Power and (PSC) staff will get together and try to come up with a stipulated agreement that they can both live with” commission spokesman Tom Krause said. “If they can’t do that then on Nov. 25 and 26, there’s a rebuttal hearing where Georgia Power can say we don’t agree with staff, we think you ought to listen to us some more.”

What to know:

Georgia Power is proposing a rate hike that would raise the average residential customer’s bill by 7% in 2020, or about $9.85 a month.

The Georgia Public Service Commission has set aside Monday through Wednesday for hearings at its offices at 244 Washington Street in downtown Atlanta, although the hearings could end sooner. You can watch live streaming of the proceedings at:  https://livestream.com/psc

The next hearing dates are scheduled for Nov. 4 and 5, and Georgia Power can request appeal hearings for Nov. 25 and 26.

 

Stanley Dunlap
Stanley Dunlap has covered government and politics for news outlets in Georgia and Tennessee for the past decade. At The (Macon) Telegraph he told readers about Macon-Bibb County’s challenges implementing its recent consolidation, with a focus on ways the state Legislature determines the fate of local communities. He used open records requests to break a story of a $400 million pension sweetheart deal a county manager steered to a friendly consultant. The Georgia Associated Press Managing Editors named Stanley a finalist for best deadline reporting for his story on the death of Gregg Allman and best beat reporting for explanatory articles on the 2018 Macon-Bibb County budget deliberations. The Tennessee Press Association honored him for his reporting on the disappearance of Holly Bobo, which became a sensational murder case that generated national headlines.

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