Throughout the 2013 Georgia Power rate case, Georgia Watch has spoken up for the state's consumers, urging the Public Service Commission (PSC) to reject unfair electric rate increases for residential and business customers. And we organized town hall meetings around the state so Commissioners could hear directly from Georgia residents in opposition to Georgia Power's rate hike request.
Following hearings on the Company's petition for a rate increase, we negotiated a number of consumer protections and benefits for residential ratepayers with PSC staff and Georgia Power and are satisfied that most of our requests were adequately included in a recently announced agreement. After very careful consideration, Georgia Watch has decided to sign onto this settlement agreement with the Public Service Commission staff, Georgia Power and other parties intervening in the case because we believe on balance it addresses the key interests of most if not all parties and it includes some important benefits for consumers, including:
- Georgia Power agreed to cut its proposed rate hike by about 40% and to phase it in over three years so the impact to monthly bills in 2014 is substantially reduced.
- The Company withdrew their proposal to charge an added fee to customers who install solar panels to power their homes, farms or small businesses.
- A prepay program with important consumer protections will be offered to allow customers the option of not paying a security deposit to initiate service.
- The Company will investigate providing hourly usage information to customers to enable them to make wiser energy decisions to change behavior and possibly save on electric bills.
However, we noted in expressing our support for the agreement that we believe the guaranteed rate of return at 10.95%, while reduced from current levels, is still higher than justified and the earnings band of 10.0% to 12.0% is wider than it needs to be to allow the company to earn a reasonable profit while encouraging them to spend ratepayers' dollars efficiently.
Finally, Georgia Watch continues to be concerned about the excess capacity maintained by the Company. With reserve margins above 30%, we believe the Company should consider retiring some additional coal generation capacity rather than installing costly environmental controls in 2016 and we will continue to advocate this position.
In addition, we will continue to support programs that increase energy efficiency, which is much better for meeting the state's future energy needs than new generation.