When your power bills are noticeably higher in January, you know who to thank. Via Margaret Newkirk at the AJC:
The state Public Service Commission signed off on a compromise deal between the company, PSC staff, industry and big retailers that will raise the typical residential bill by $10.76 per month in January and ratchet up another $4 by 2013.
It also approved a second increase that will add another $3.73 cents to bills starting in January.
Thank your state lawmakers — and the army of lobbyists Georgia Power dispatched to influence elected officials — for that second fee. It will help pay for two proposed nuclear reactors, expected to begin operation in 2016, at Plant Vogtle near Augusta. Newkirk reports that the fee is nearly twice as big as what Georgia Power originally proposed to the Legislature.
Oh, and Bobby Baker, the only PSC member who would actually push back against utilities, voted against the rate hikes. It was his final vote as a commissioner.
From Georgia Watch:
The 4-1 decision permits a first year increase of $562 million, a second year increase of $752 million, and a third year increase of $844 million. By 2013, annual electric bills will go up by more than $175.
“Commissioners turned a deaf ear to Georgians who overwhelmingly said now is not the time for a rate increase,” said Georgia Watch executive director Angela Speir Phelps, a former public service commissioner herself. “This decision reflects a real disconnect between Commissioners and the financial reality businesses and families are facing in this economy.” [...]
However, the PSC voted to set the company’s profit ceiling at 12.25 percent and allow the electric company to keep one-third of all profits above that number.
“This is one of the largest rate increases in Georgia history and it comes at one of the worst financial times in our history. At the very least, all overearnings should be returned to residential and business customers,” said Speir Phelps.
In one of the most troubling aspects of today’s decision, Georgia Power will now have the option to sidestep a full review process on future rate increase requests. If its profit margin dips below 10.25 percent, the electric company will be allowed to file for rate hikes in an abbreviated 90-day proceeding in lieu of the well-established six-month formal review process.
“This new procedure sets a bad precedent. A shorter review process means less scrutiny for Georgia Power by the PSC and ultimately a less transparent rate process,” said Georgia Watch Consumer Energy Program director Clare McGuire.
AARP Georgia, with nearly one million Georgia members, opposed the deal made by Georgia Power and the PSC staff, calling it lopsided, out of step with today’s economy, and not in line with the many concerns expressed by thousands of Georgia Power’s residential customers.
“This deal was crafted by Georgia Power for Georgia Power,” said Will Phillips, associate state director of AARP Georgia. “It raises customer rates by hundreds of millions of dollars more than is necessary in one of the worst economies in a generation.”
Phillips said the biggest component of the rate plan which AARP and its allies contested is a double-digit profit for Georgia Power that will start at 11.15 percent and would be allowed to grow to 12.25 percent or above, far in excess of what other states are allowing their utilities to earn.
Through a series of public hearings held last summer and in hundreds of subsequent communications from Georgia Power customers to the PSC, the public sentiment has been overwhelmingly against this rate hike.
“Georgians have told us and they’ve told this Commission that this is not the time to give Georgia Power a rate increase of this size,” said Phillips. “Given this, and the evidence provided by experts in this case, the decision today is disappointing and will be a bitter pill to swallow for many Georgians this holiday season.”
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