Atlanta, GA—Today the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) issued a final order in Georgia Power’s 2019 rate case that will result in higher bills and less control over those bills for Georgia Power’s customers.
Throughout the proceedings, advocacy groups urged the Commission to reject Georgia Power’s proposed fee hike, arguing that it would be among the highest investor-owned utility fixed charges nationwide, discourage investments in energy efficiency and solar, and disproportionately impact customers earning a lower or fixed income.
Today the PSC rejected Georgia Power’s original proposal to increase fixed fees from $10 per month to $17.95 per month on customers’ monthly bills while approving a $4 increase overall, with the first $2 increase in 2021 and another $2 increase in 2022.
The Southern Environmental Law Center intervened on behalf of Georgia Interfaith Power & Light, Southface Institute, and Vote Solar in the first rate case Georgia Power has filed in six years.
“Customers who earn a fixed or lower-income suffer the most from high electric bills, and allowing Georgia Power to increase mandatory fees only makes that burden even greater,” said Codi Norred, Program Director for Georgia Interfaith Power & Light. “Georgia Power could be doing much more to help its customers manage their energy costs, but instead is making it even more difficult for families, congregations, and communities statewide to stay on top of their monthly bills.”
“Today’s decision adopts a settlement agreement not signed onto by any group representing Georgia Power’s 2.2 million residential customers,” said Kurt Ebersbach, Senior Attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center. “While Georgia Power did not get everything it wanted, it’s disappointing that residential customers will now suffer additional financial burden and less control over their electric bills.”
A bright spot for solar customers
The groups also advocated for the Commission to require Georgia Power to use monthly netting for customers with on-site solar participating in the utility’s rooftop solar tariff, which would allow those customers to capture more value from their private investments while helping to boost economic growth and expand Georgia’s homegrown rooftop solar industry.
The Commission unanimously passed a motion put forward by Commissioner Echols that will require Georgia Power to use monthly netting up to 5,000 rooftop solar customers. Georgia Power’s rooftop solar program has approximately 1,000 participants today. This change will support economic growth, create local jobs, and promote clean energy.
“Today, the Georgia Public Service Commission opened the door for energy freedom, local jobs and hardworking Georgia families,” said Katie Chiles Ottenweller, Southeast Director at Vote Solar. “While we are disheartened to see a cap placed on this policy change, for now, Georgia families and businesses that invest in affordable, clean rooftop solar will be treated fairly on their electric bills. Not only will fair accounting benefit rooftop solar customers, but all Georgia Power customers will benefit from a cleaner, more distributed grid that will bolster reliability and increase participation in Georgia's energy future.”
Improved customer access to energy usage data
The groups advocated for Georgia Power to develop a data access implementation plan that would allow all interested residential and small business customers to monitor and optimize their energy usage, giving them more control over energy costs. Access to energy usage information is critical to ensuring customers have the freedom to manage their electric bills as Georgia Power works to develop and offer more modern electric rates.
In today's decision, the Commission ordered Georgia Power to work with Staff to develop options for customers who want access to their energy usage data. The order allows only those parties that signed the settlement to participate in the development of the plan—that means no parties representing residential customers will have a say. Further, the order will not require any quick action; instead, customers might have to wait until 2022 or later.
“We are pleased the Commission sees the need for Georgia Power to work with Staff to investigate how much it would cost and what it would take to provide customers ease of access to their energy usage data,” said Lisa Bianchi-Fossati, Policy Director for the Southface Institute. “However, we are concerned that Georgia Power's settlement agreement, adopted by the Commission, has limited teeth. We urge Georgia Power to approach this effort with an eye toward developing and implementing a successful plan that will truly empower Georgians to better manage their energy usage. To do otherwise is a clear missed opportunity for Georgians and Georgia’s clean energy economy.”
Customer choice in the transition to modern rates
Georgia Power’s proposal would have eliminated the most popular residential electric rate for customers in new homes (“R”), instead forcing those customers onto a difficult-to-understand, more volatile rate (“TOU-RD”).
The groups and Commission Staff strongly opposed this proposal. Ultimately, the Commission retained the popular R tariff, but is allowing Georgia Power to market and study the TOU-RD rate, instead of requiring a more fair approach of increasing marketing for all of its residential rate options.
About Southern Environmental Law Center: For more than 30 years, the Southern Environmental Law Center has used the power of the law to champion the environment of the Southeast. With over 80 attorneys and nine offices across the region, SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect our natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region. www.SouthernEnvironment.org
About Georgia Interfaith Power & Light: Georgia Interfaith Power & Light is a state-wide interfaith ministry that in response to climate change and environmental injustice engages communities of faith in stewardship of Creation through worship, education, and the sustainable generation and efficient use of energy. GIPL’s goal is to help people of faith recognize and fulfill their responsibility for the stewardship of creation. www.gipl.org
About Southface Institute: Southface Institute, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, is a leader in sustainable advocacy, building, planning and operations across the U.S. With a mission to create a healthy and equitably built environment for all, Southface’s consulting services, workforce development, research and policy practices are supporting better homes, workplaces and communities. Experts in the fields of resource efficiency, building tech and organizational sustainability since 1978, Southface is committed to building a regenerative economy to meet tomorrow’s needs today. www.southface.org
About Vote Solar: Vote Solar’s mission is to make solar a mainstream energy resource across the U.S. Since 2002, Vote Solar has been working to lower solar costs and expand solar access. A 501(c)3 non-profit organization, Vote Solar advocates for state policies and programs needed to repower our electric grid with clean energy. Vote Solar works to remove regulatory barriers and implement key policies needed to bring solar to scale. www.votesolar.org