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Saturday, November 30, 2013 - 8:01pm

Radio Ads Duel Over Georgia Power Rate Hike

The radio has become the latest battleground in Georgia Power’s fight to increase electric rates for consumers across the state.

AARP Georgia took to the airwaves opposing the idea November 20 just two days after Georgia Power and several interveners in the rate increase case signed on to a settlement agreement. That agreement reduced the amount of the rate hike, but the state’s Public Service Commission must approve the deal before it is final.

Spokesman Ed Van Herik said AARP Georgia is opposed to any rate increase.

“They’re asking for their fourth rate increase in four years,” stated Van Herik. “I don’t know how many people in Georgia have had pay increases in the last four years, but I’d bet it isn’t very large.”

The last time Georgia Power asked for a rate increase was in 2010. At that time, the PSC approved a settlement agreement that allowed the company to change its rate, but only in stages, gradually increasing the price each year through 2013.

“It’s been three years since our last rate case—2010,” said Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft, who explained that since that time, the company has had to make significant investments in infrastructure.

Kraft said the price of doing business has gone up and a rate increase is needed. Georgia Power has been running its own radio campaign citing the company’s extensive “to-do list.”

“Almost 50 percent of the increase is due to environmental compliance costs—the costs of complying with new governmental regulations. So that’s another factor that comes into play,” explained Kraft.

Van Herik, however, said AARP Georgia is fighting the increase because older Georgians are disproportionately impacted by higher rates.

“A lot of them are retired. They are on fixed incomes and if a person over 60 loses their job, it takes them more than twice as long to find employment again than it would someone who is younger,” Van Herik said.

AARP Georgia did not sign on as on official intervener in this year’s rate increase case. Most of the interveners, including consumer advocacy group Georgia Watch, signed on to the settlement agreement. If approved, the agreement includes an increase in Georgia Power’s discount for low-income senior citizens.

“I do think the balance that was struck in this case was fair,” said Georgia Watch Deputy Director, Liz Coyle.

The PSC Energy Committee will take final public comments at its meeting December 12. The full PSC will vote on whether to approve the settlement agreement December 17.