ATLANTA - Georgia Power asked the Public Service Commission late Friday for a $482 million rate increase, or about $7.84 per month for the average residential customer.
That amounts to a 6.1 percent increase. And consumer groups were quick to object.
The commission will hold several days of hearings in coming months and vote on the request in December. If approved, the increase would become effective Jan. 1.
The company said it’s to cover the costs of pollution controls, smart-grid technology, transmission lines and customer service.
“We will continue to invest what is required to deliver the world-class value our customers deserve and expect and to serve Georgia’s current and future energy needs,” said Georgia Power President Paul Bowers.
The self-styled consumer watchdog Georgia Watch issued a critical statement within minutes of the utility’s announcement.
“Georgia Watch is very concerned that Georgia Power is earning higher and higher profits for their shareholders on the backs of hard-working, Georgia utility-bill payers,” said Elena Parent, the organization’s executive director. “Keep in mind that at the same time Georgia Power is asking for a rate increase, the company is also asking the PSC to approve the foisting of massive Vogtle cost overruns onto captive ratepayers who won’t experience any benefit from this project for years to come.”
Georgia Power is adding two nuclear reactors at its Plant Vogtle in Burke County for a total budget of $14 billion. The company has acknowledged it is $381 million over budget and behind schedule but argues the ultimate benefit to customers will still be greater than the expense.
A state law allows the company to charge customers now for the financing costs of the reactors even though they won’t begin producing power until 2017 or later.
The company’s electricity rates have risen 23 percent since 1990, one-third of the rate of overall inflation. And it estimates its rates are typically 13 percent below the national average for electricity.
The five-man Public Service Commission is required by law to vote on a rate request within five months. Under the legal framework, the company could have requested another increase at any time after approval, but instead, it decided to lock in a higher, three-year bump and give up the right to another request in that period, according to commission spokesman Bill Edge.
Before the December vote, the commission has to consider the utility’s 20-year plan. In it, the company is asking to close 15 generators that burn coal or oil and to convert others to natural gas. Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald will ask his colleagues to require the company to double its use of solar power as part of its long-range strategy.