Georgia Public Service Commission Fails To Protect Georgians from Mandatory Fixed Fees
After public opposition, Georgia Power backs down from initial proposal, but still slaps customers with 40% fee hike
Atlanta, Georgia – Today the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) made its ruling on Georgia Power’s rate case, notably granting an ill-advised $4 increase in the mandatory monthly fee residential customers must pay –phased-in by $24 each year in 2021 and 2022– and setting a terrible precedent for potential similar increases in the future.
Commissioner Tim Echols made the motion to adopt the settlement agreement that Georgia Power made with primarily big business interests, and with no representation of residential customers outside Atlanta city limits. While the Commission did not go out of its way to represent public interest in their decision, customers endeavored to have their positions considered in the process by submitting more than 6,000 written comments to the Commission in opposition to the fee hike and by speaking at four PSC meetings in this proceeding as well as at town halls with Commissioners throughout the state. As a result of incredible customer participation and public pressure, Georgia Power backed down from its initially proposed $7.95 monthly increase and settled on a $4 per month increase. Yet even this $4 increase on residential customers is unjustified, based on faulty calculations, and much larger than most other fee hikes approved by utility commissions around the nation. It greatly outpaces general inflation and the PSC should have denied it. Simultaneously, small businesses and farmers will be hit hard with a doubling of their fee on each meter served by Georgia Power.
Perhaps worse, by not addressing the issue of Georgia Power’s faulty method for calculating the cost to serve each customer, the Commission has left customers vulnerable to another such egregious hike in the future. The approved settlement agreement does not explain how select parties that signed onto the settlement determined that the mandatory monthly fee should increase by $24 each year. We do not believe this fee hike is in the best interest of ratepayers. Evidence in the record showed that Georgia Power’s proposal to increase the fee was unjustified and based on faulty calculations that provided false cover for the Company to overcharge customers for basic access to power. Intervenors and the PSC Staff brought this issue to the forefront of their testimony, which –if addressed by the PSC– would have helped ensure customer protection. Instead, the PSC ignored input from its staff, intervenors, and the customers they represent and has set a bad precedent for future increases.
Bryan Jacob of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy stated: “Today’s decision subordinated interests of residential customers and small businesses to those of big business. Customers who use the least amount of energy will lose even more control of their energy bills with this unjustified fee hike. Instead, customers will see higher bills and will be further disincentivized to reduce energy usage or invest in renewable energy.”
Kimberly Fountain of Consumer Reports stated: “In seeking this fee hike, Georgia Power is putting profits over people and the members of the Georgia Public Service Commission who approved it are failing to protect those they are representing.”
Brionté McCorkle of the Georgia Conservation Voters stated: “We are extremely disappointed that the Public Service Commissioners have voted against the interests of the people who voted for them. It is clear that they are representing the interests of Georgia Power and not the millions of customers who will be stuck with higher bills because of the company’s poor decision making.”
Nathaniel Smith CEO of the Partnership for Southern Equity stated: “Once again the PSC has sided with Georgia Power and corporate interests instead of the Georgian’s they’re sworn to represent. This decision still leaves our most burdened households struggling with some of the highest electricity bills in the nation.”
Link to recording of PSC meeting: https://livestream.com/PSC/events/8933052/videos/199998001 (begins at 6:30)
About Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Since 1985, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy has worked to promote responsible energy choices to ensure clean, safe and healthy communities throughout the Southeast. www.cleanenergy.org
About Consumer Reports
Consumer Reports is a nonprofit consumer membership organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. For 80 years, CR has provided evidence-based product testing and ratings, rigorous research, hard-hitting investigative journalism, public education, and steadfast policy action on behalf of consumers’ interests. Unconstrained by advertising or other commercial influences, CR has exposed landmark public health and safety issues and strives to be a catalyst for pro-consumer changes in the marketplace. Learn more at CR.org/advocacy.
About the Georgia Solar Energy Association
The Georgia Solar Energy Association, is leading the effort in Georgia to promote the economic and environmental benefits of solar energy through education, advocacy and industry support. Our members are working together to make Georgia a leader in innovation, creating jobs, and attracting investment. For more information, visit www.gasolar.org.
About the Georgia Conservation Voters
Georgia Conservation Voters’ mission is to advocate for public policies that advance a more just and sustainable future, campaign for candidates who will make climate and environmental justice a priority, and hold elected officials accountable for their actions and votes. For more information, visit www.gcvoters.org
About Partnership for Southern Equity
The Partnership for Southern Equity (PSE) is an Atlanta-based nonprofit that advances policies and institutional actions that promote racial equity and shared prosperity for all in the growth of metropolitan Atlanta and the American South through an ecosystem-based model for multi-demographic engagement. www.psequity.org