The state Public Service Commission (PSC) Tuesday unanimously approved a fuel costs recovery plan submitted by Georgia Power that will increase the average residential customer’s bill by $15.90 per month.
The rate hike, which takes effect next month, was the product of an agreement between the Atlanta-based utility and the PSC’s Public Interest Advocacy staff that will let Georgia recover 100% of $2.1 billion in higher fuel costs it has incurred during the last two years from its customers.
Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald blamed higher natural gas prices that are beyond the commission’s control. He said the Green New Deal pushed by the Biden administration is responsible for driving up both gasoline and natural gas prices.
At a recent hearing, McDonald argued that state law requires the commission to let Georgia Power recover higher fuel costs as a pass-through. The company does not earn any profit from higher fuel expenses.
“We owe the bill, and we’ve got to pay it,” McDonald said.
Representatives of environmental and consumer advocacy groups that appeared before the commission in recent weeks asked the PSC to reject Georgia Power’s fuel costs recovery plan in favor of the utility stepping up its use of solar and other forms of renewable energy in generating electricity.
“When bills jump next month, the most vulnerable Georgians are going to have to make unthinkable choices about how to spend their income,” Jennifer Whitfield, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, said following Tuesday’s vote.
“The commission’s approach to this moment – giving the utility everything it wants while leaving the majority of its customers to struggle with higher monthly bills – is unacceptable. Georgia Power shouldn’t be pocketing billions in record profits while also putting customers in the position of choosing between power and basic needs.”
Commission Chair Tricia Pridemore proposed an amendment to further increase the higher fuel discount Georgia Power offers income-eligible seniors from $8 per month in the utility’s proposal to $9.50, bringing it to total of $33.50 per month.
The fuel costs recovery increase is one of several Georgia Power has already received in recent months or is poised to seek in the months ahead. The PSC approved a $1.8 billion increase last December that increased the average residential bill by $3.60 per month.
Rates are expected to go up again later this year or early next year when Georgia Power brings into service the first of two new nuclear reactors being built at Plant Vogtle south of Augusta.
What is the Public Service Commission?: The Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) is a government agency responsible for regulating essential public utilities in the state of Georgia, such as electricity, natural gas, telecommunications, and transportation services. Their job is ensure that these services are reliable, affordable, and accessible to the public. The PSC consists of five members who are elected by the citizens of Georgia. These members, also known as commissioners, are chosen through statewide elections, where voters decide who will represent them on the PSC.
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