Yellow front end loaders are dwarfed by piled coal in front of Georgia Power's Plant Scherer in Juliette.

Yellow front end loaders are dwarfed by piled coal in front of Georgia Power's Plant Scherer in Juliette. / GPB

Starting next year, Georgia Power customers will see an average increase of  $6 a month on their power bills.

That’s just one of a couple of increases expected to be phased in over the next three years. State Public Service commissioners approved the rate hikes for Georgia Power on Tuesday.Georgia Power Rate Hike Approved By Public Service Commissioners

The PSC approved a monthly increase of $2 to the base charge every Georgia Power customer pays regardless of how much power they use. That kicks in by 2021 and increases again in 2022.

The final increase to the base rate approved by commissioners is about a quarter of what Georgia Power asked for. The company had initially sought to increase base rates by $7.95.

The rate charged per kilowatt hour of electricity consumed is also rising. On average, customers are expected to see about $6 more monthly in that part of their bill.

Commissioner Tim Echols defended the need for the rate hike on GPB's Political Rewind. He agrees with Georgia Power the hikes are needed to modernize Georgia's electrical grid.

"It is in our best interest to have the best possible grid that we can have,” Echols said. “That attracts businesses and quite frankly, we’re five republicans serving as commissioners. Economic development is important to us.”

Georgia Power has also claimed to need the money pay for storm repairs and clean up coal ash ponds.

But opponents of the rate hike have questioned why it’s on them to pay for coal ash cleanup, a problem which Georgia Power created themselves.

Others have also said the increase on utility bills will force vulnerable populations to make tough decisions like paying their bills or buying medicine.

"Customers who earn a fixed or lower-income suffer the most from high electric bills and allowing Georgia Power to increase mandatory fees only makes that burden even greater," Codi Norred, with Georgia Interfaith Power & Light said in a press release from the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Tuesday’s hike was approved by a vote of 4-1, with Commissioner Bubba McDonald the sole vote against.

On Thursday, commissioners will also vote on a rate hike for Atlanta Gas Light.