Did Georgia Power just flinch in a rate case showdown?

Georgia Power customers have spoken out strongly in opposition to the utility’s proposal to nearly double its mandatory monthly fee. And yesterday, Georgia Power conceded that its proposal will not be adopted.

Chris Carnevale | December 12, 2019 | Georgia, Utilities

This guest blog post was written by John Wilson, Research Director of Resource Insight, Inc. and former Deputy Director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy with contributions from Chris Carnevale, SACE Coastal Climate and Energy Manager. 

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Georgia Power customers have spoken out strongly in opposition to the utility’s proposal to nearly double its mandatory monthly fee. And yesterday, Georgia Power conceded that its proposal will not be adopted.

In an unusual filing, Georgia Power announced a settlement of its rate case with five intervenors in the regulatory proceeding. Dropping its original proposal of $18, Georgia Power and its settlement partners are now proposing to increase the mandatory monthly fee to $14.

Georgia Power GPC 2019 Rate Case Settlement Agreement, filed December 11, 2019.

While $14 per month is certainly an improvement over $18 per month, it still represents a 40% increase, a much larger hike by any measure than most regulators are approving for utilities across the country. It is also worth noting that the charge will remain hidden on most customers’ bills.

This filing departs from Georgia Power’s usual litigation practices. As a participant in numerous regulatory proceedings in Georgia, it is my experience that the process Georgia Power is as follows:

  1. Negotiate a settlement with the Commission’s “advocacy staff” (PSC staff charged with representing the general public interest).
  2. Invite other parties to sign on to the negotiated settlement.
  3. The Commission then approves the negotiated settlement, potentially making some policy adjustments, resolving any remaining disputes, and occasionally revising a few terms in the negotiated settlement.

Approaching a settlement in the way described above enables Georgia Power to strongly influence the outcomes of its regulatory proceedings.

What didn’t happen in yesterday’s filing is Step 1: “The Commission’s advocacy staff is not a party to the negotiated settlement.”

Strong Signals from the Georgia Commissioners

Usually, the Commission’s advocacy staff would be representing residential customer interests, but in this case, none of the settlement partners had a particular interest in the residential mandatory monthly fee. These settlement partners were not the ones pushing Georgia Power to agree to a reduction from $18 to $14 per month. This is why it is clear that Georgia Power conceded that its proposal will not be adopted, rather than the usual appearance of compromising with its settlement partner.

Georgia Power’s settlement partners include two commercial parties, two manufacturing parties, and the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority. No residential customers’ insight.

If Georgia Power has dropped its proposed increase in half without any pressure from these five settlement partners, that’s a strong signal that Georgia Power knows the Commission is not supportive of its request, and that the utility is hoping to salvage some kind of increase.

What does this all mean for Georgia Power customers? 

Georgia Power’s retreat shows the public is being heard and Georgia Power underestimated the opposition to its proposal for one of the highest mandatory monthly fees of any regulated utility in the country. Next Tuesday, the Georgia Public Service Commission will make its final decision. Will the Commission accept Georgia Power’s “settlement”? Or will the Commission go further and adopt the recommendations of its staff to use more appropriate methods for calculating the mandatory monthly fee?

The fight is not over, but it is clear that the momentum is on the side of the public! Join us in saying #NoFeeHike. Add your voice and send a letter to the Georgia PSC today.

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Chris Carnevale
Based in Charleston, South Carolina, Chris is SACE’s Coastal Climate and Energy Manager and South Carolina State Affairs Liaison. Chris joined the SACE staff in 2011 to help build a…
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