The state commission that regulates utilities unanimously approved a power rate hike Tuesday. It will be phased in over the next three years.
Georgia Power customers will see their average residential bills increase by $2.19 starting Jan. 1. Then, they will increase by $3.61 in 2015 and by $2.96 in 2016. The rate hike will help pay for additional transmission lines, and new grid technology.
Public Service Commissioner Stan Wise says the hike also needed to pay for pollution control at the utility’s coal plants.
“A lot of this rate case is generated around the recovery of environmental costs that come out of Washington and the war on coal,” said Wise.
In defending the rate hike, Wise says many critics of the increase support cleaning up coal production, but aren’t willing to pay the cost.
“It’s a little bit like supporting an increase in the minimum wage for fast food workers, and then complaining that your cheeseburger went up a dollar in price.”
The agreement also increases the discount for low-income senior by 4 dollars a month. And Georgia Power has dropped plans to charge homeowners with solar panels a fee.
The AARP opposes the rate hike. Associate state AARP director David Pilgrem points out this is the fourth year in a row customers will see their electric rates go up.
“Apparently, only the people of Georgia have to tighten their belts in a struggling economy,” said Pilgrem.
Liz Coyle, deputy director of the consumer advocate group Georgia Watch, says they hope to convince Georgia Power not to implement the rate hike in the second and third years.
“We actually believe, Georgia Watch believes, that they have so much excess reserve capacity that they really don’t need to install those controls and could actually close some additional units to save money for ratepayers,” said Coyle.
Those who oppose the rate hike point out that Georgia Power will see a profit margin of 10.95 percent under the increase. That’s higher than the national average for utilities of 10 percent.