At this week's hearings in the Georgia Power rate case, Georgia Watch Deputy Director Liz Coyle spoke up for the state's consumers, urging the Public Service Commission (PSC) to reject unfair electric rate increases for residential and business customers.
If approved, Georgia Power's $478 million rate hike request would add nearly $8 a month to the average residential bill. That's on top of Georgia Power increases since 2003 that have added over $44 per month to household electric bills. With the current proposed increase in effect, the average residential customer would pay $628 more per year for electricity than they did a decade ago. That's real money. For many Georgians still struggling to climb out of the Great Recession, it is simply unaffordable.
Georgia Power is requesting the increase to pay for energy infrastructure Georgians don't need. The Company has 30 percent excess capacity while the state mandates a 15 percent reserve margin. Consumers shouldn't have to pay for energy capacity they don't need. Further, Georgia Power wants to start collecting the higher rates from their customers in 2014 for environmental controls on coal plants that won't be installed until 2016 - if ever. That's just wrong.
Georgia Power also wants the Public Service Commission to approve an increase in the company's guaranteed profit, raising it from 11.15 to 11.5%. The national average return for utilities is 10%. Georgia Watch along with other interveners and notably, the Public Service Commission staff are calling on the Commission to reduce Georgia Power's Return on Equity, not raise it. The company argues they need the higher profit margin to attract favorable financial ratings and lower borrowing rates because they're a risky investment! In fact, the ratings agencies have suggested lower ratings for Southern Company (Georgia Power's parent) due to problems sister company Mississippi Power experienced building a new facility there, in which they've had to absorb cost overruns. That's right! Georgia Power wants its customers to pick up the tab for losses in Mississippi!
In addition, Georgia Power proposes to charge an added fee to customers who choose to install solar panels to power their homes, farms or small businesses if they need any electricity from the power company. The proposed tariff would tack an added $22* per month charge for residential and commercial solar systems, which would be a significant deterrent to choosing renewable energy alternatives as a way to reduce electric bills. Simply put, Georgia Power wants to prevent customers from adopting economical solar power by imposing prohibitive fees. Georgia Watch opposes taxes on smart energy choices!
You can let the five members of the Georgia Public Service Commission know how you feel about Georgia Power's rate hike proposal online here or by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org by mailing:
Georgia Public Service Commission
244 Washington Street, SW
Atlanta GA, 30334-9052
*For a 4 kilowatt installed array of solar panels.