ATLANTA - Georgia Power is asking the state Public Service Commission (PSC) for a rate hike of nearly 12% during the next three years, with the vast majority of the increase front-loaded into 2023. The proposed increase, which the Atlanta-based utility filed Friday with the PSC, would raise the average residential customer's bill by $16.29 per month. Of that amount, $14.32 would take effect next Jan. 1. Another $1.35 would be tacked onto monthly bills in 2024, followed by an increase of 62 cents in 2025. The increase is needed to strengthen Georgia Power's electric grid, add more renewable energy to its power-generation portfolio and improve customer service, said Chris Womack, the company's chairman, president and CEO.
"It's a real significant commitment to our infrastructure to make sure we are responding to our customers as we move from coal to more gas and solar," he said. Georgia Power also is seeking a return on equity (ROE) of 11%, up from the 10.5% ROE the commission approved in the utility's last rate case three years ago. "We're requesting to maintain the financial integrity of the company," Womack said of the ROE proposal.
That actually puts downward pressure on rates." Environmental and consumer advocates criticized the proposed rate hike as excessive. "Georgia Power's customers already pay some of the highest electric bills in the country," said Liz Coyle, executive director of the consumer advocacy group Georgia Watch. "If the Public Service Commission approves this steep rate hike, it will add a significant burden to already stretched household budgets."
"Sierra Club is carefully reviewing Georgia Power's proposal, and we'll be looking for any unreasonable investments in existing, uneconomic fossil fuel plants as well as how the company plans to deal with the cost of coal ash clean up," added Charline Whyte, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign in Georgia. "Throughout this rate case proceeding, Sierra Club will fight to make sure customers aren't stuck paying the bill for coal plants that Georgia Power doesn't even need." Georgia Power has been reducing its reliance on fossil fuels in recent years. In the rate-case filing, the utility is proposing to retire 3, 600 megawatts of generating capacity from coal- and oil-burning power plants by 2028. The company is pledging to add 6, 000 megawatts of power from renewable energy by 2035, doubling its generating capacity from renewable sources. Georgia Power also plans to increase its commitment to electric vehicles. A shortage of EV charging stations across Georgia has been identified as a barrier to developing the technology. "We want to be a good partner in supporting the buildout of that infrastructure," Womack said. The PSC will hold hearings on the rate hike request later this year and vote on the proposal in December.