Georgia Power seeks residential rate hike

ATLANTA --- Georgia Power Co. says it needs approval for a 6.8 percent boost in what it charges its customers for fuel, adding $6.98 to the average monthly residential bill for a total of $642 million.

State law requires the Public Service Commission to pass along to customers the company's expense for fuel used in generating electricity, but the commission can adjust the timing and reject any requests it considers invalid. The commission did not grant $128 million of the company's request in 2008 in hopes that the rapid rise in energy prices would soon drop.

Georgia Power says prices didn't drop as fast as they rose, meaning it collected less than the actual cost of fuel. The bulk of the cost increase is for coal, which was partially offset by a decrease in the price of natural gas and lower demand for electricity during the weak economy.

The current request includes adjusting electric bills so they are higher in summer when consumption soars with the use of air conditioning. Those peak-demand periods require utilities to crank up power plants that are otherwise idle because of their expensive operations.

Such seasonal rates might encourage customers to reduce electricity use when it's the most expensive.

The commission will vote on the request March 10, and the increase could take effect April 1.