by Gloria Tatum
Once again with their hand out, Georgia Power came to the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) to ask for more money and their electric customers are outraged.
Paul Bowers, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Georgia Power, requested $2.2 billion increase from the PSC to cover storm and hurricane damage, improve the electrical grid, and pay for the cleanup of toxic coal ash ponds.
The utility says it needs $450 million to clean up storm and hurricane damage, $525 million to close 29 coal ash ponds, and $1.3 billion to invest in the electrical grid.
So they are seeking to raise the mandatory monthly fixed rate or “Basic Service Charge” from $10 to almost $18 a month over a three-year period. This would add over $200 annually to an average bill regardless of how much or little electricity you use.
This would be among the highest mandatory monthly fees of investor-owned utilities around the country and would disproportionately hurt customers who use the least energy and are least able to afford the costly changes. It would also punish energy conservation and solar energy, according to the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
Georgia Sierra Club, Partnership for Southern Equity, and other organizations along with about one hundred electric customers, from across the state, gathered outside the PSC office on Monday, September 30th to tell Georgia Power that enough is enough.
Ratepayers are angry and tired of paying for Georgia Power’s bad decisions, mistakes, cost overruns at Vogtle, and bloated profits for the company. Many customers think the company should pay for this out of their own overstuffed pockets.
Paul Bowers made over $4 million in total compensation and Thomas Fanning, President & CEO at Southern Company made over $12 million in total compensation. Southern Company made $3 billion in profits in 2018 and Georgia Power made $1.4 billion in 2017.
“Georgia Power is making crazy profits off of just building Plant Vogtle and with these huge profits, all the data suggests that the PSC should lower the rate, not increase it,” Glenn Carroll, a longtime nuclear watchdog with Nuclear Watch South told the Streets of Atlanta. “It’s really that simple,” she added.
Georgia Power have published extraordinary profits after the 2011 start of Vogtle construction, for example, 15% in 2015, 16% in 2016, 17% in 2017, according to Nuclear Watch South.
But in 2018 their profits dropped to about 10% because Georgia Power temporarily absorbed and wrote off their part, about one billion dollars in cost overruns discovered at Vogtle.
Some activists wonder if the rate hike is actually to help make up for the one billion they recently lost on Vogtle.
Georgia Power customers feel financially squeezed as they watch the company rake in billions in profits and executives receive millions in lavish salaries while poor people go without air conditioning in one of the hottest summers on record.
Georgia is home to over 1.1 million people that live at or below the poverty line with senior citizens, the largest group, living on a fixed income.
“Georgia Power wants poor people, working people, and senior citizens to feed their bloated bank accounts but we need to feed our children,” one ratepayer said.
These rate increases will hurt low-income customers and seniors the most who may have to decide between paying the electric bill, or cutting back on food, or medicine.
“So instead of going after their own profits, they are coming to the ratepayers for that increase again, and again, and again. Southern Company made $3 billion dollars in profits in 2018 and they don’t want to take a dime out of those profits,” Brionte McCorkle, Executive Director, Georgia Conservation Voters, told Streets of Atlanta.
The utility company wants $525 million to close 29 coal ash ponds that are contaminating the water and rivers and making people sick. The company has been burning dirty coal for decades and it gives people asthma and cancer who live close to the coal plants. The company tells us how cheap coal is but the clean-up is not cheap.
Ratepayers feel the company should pay to clean up their toxic coal ash ponds and the water they poisoned. They made the mess so they should clean it up is how people feel.
“Georgia Power wants $500 million dollars from ratepayers to clean up this coal ash for the next three years but this is just a downpayment. They actually want billions more from you,” Neil Sardana, Georgia Beyond Coal Organizer, Sierra Club Georgia, said.
The next rate case is scheduled for November 4-7, 2019, and the PSC will vote on Georgia Powers’ request for more money on December 17. The PSC can vote “no” on this latest increase but recent history shows they always give Georgia Power everything they ask for.
The PSC has been captured by the corporations that they regulate. This means the PSC does not represent the ratepayers. So in the next election, we need to replace the PSC with people who will represent the ratepayers.
To watch an interview with Brionte McCorkle, Executive Director of GA Conservation Voters, go the Judy Conder’s video. Click link below.