Georgia Public Service Commission Bends to the Will of Georgia Power in 2022 Rate Case
Last month, the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) voted on a final order in the Georgia Power Company (GPC) rate case. This decision, in short, dropped the ball and was a massive disappointment. The needs of Georgia residents and concerns raised by advocates were treated as noise, not priorities.
One of the biggest issues debated during the proceeding was whether to expand the successful rooftop solar pilot program that GPC launched in 2020. But Commissioners decided to adopt anti-solar proposals from GPC, imposing a $100 interconnection fee for new solar customers, while approving a rate increase across the board for all ratepayers.
Expanding access to rooftop solar would have been a win for Georgians. It would have brought more local jobs and reduced reliance on energy imported from other states and countries. The benefits of rooftop solar in Georgia, and residents interest in expanding it, are clear and proven:
- Healthy solar markets contribute to state economic growth (In neighboring state, Florida, the net metering program created $18.3 billion dollars in economic value, $3.2 billion in household income to Florida workers and $3.3 billion in federal, state and local tax revenues).
- The solar market represents a competitive energy market in the state, the last bastion of energy freedom for customers seeking more control over rising power bills.
- 76% of Georgia voters want to see more emphasis on solar – more than any other resource. This includes 74% of independents and 64% of Republicans.
- 73% of Georgia voters are more likely to vote for a political candidate who supports increasing clean energy. 75% support an approach that allows markets and businesses to provide more clean energy, rather than government mandates or quotas.
- 93% say that protecting property owners’ ability to produce energy on their land is important to them.
The purpose of the Georgia Public Service Commission is to serve the folks they are meant to represent, adequately and accurately. The numbers reflect that the majority of Georgia ratepayers are asking for an expansion of rooftop solar and relief from rapidly increasing energy bills – and that the PSC is blatantly rejecting their needs over the demands of a monopoly utility.
In fact, whether the commission accurately represents and reflects the ratepayers from their district is of debate right now. The 11th circuit court heard the state’s appeal last month after the Supreme Court found evidence of a significant amount of votes being diluted, warranting a delay of elections until the matter is fully resolved.
This means there is a larger conversation at play here – the role of systemic injustice, voter disparity and voters’ rights. If the decision goes in favor of the plaintiffs, the legislature would need to design a new system of voting for PSC candidates — one that hopefully centers the voices of all Georgia voters.
In the meantime, our eyes are on the Georgia state legislature. The beginning of a new legislative session means a new opportunity to do what the PSC failed to do: accelerate equitable clean energy access across the Peach State. Specifically, the legislature can and should advance policies to extend a net metering program that fairly compensates all solar owners for the value they provide to the grid.
In addition, we’re eager to continue working with our frontline partners to establish a Georgians First Fund, which would use money that Georgia Power overcollects from ratepayers to provide relief for families struggling to pay their monthly utility bills through bill assistance, clean energy, energy efficiency work, and other innovative solutions.
Ultimately, folks in communities across the state of Georgia understand their voices matter in conversations around energy and environmental justice. Georgia policymakers must prioritize the health, security, and livelihoods of their constituents by showing up for the interests of the people they serve.