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Athenians Criticize Georgia Power Rate Hikes


Photo Credit: David Schick

About three dozen people came out to a public meeting at the UGA Chapel last night to voice their concern over Georgia Power’s plan to raise power rates.

Georgia Power has proposed a $478 million increase and a new fee on property owners who install solar panels on their homes and businesses. The rate hike equals about $8 per month for the average residential customer, and the solar power surcharge would cost those who install solar panels on their homes $5.56 per kilowatt-hour generated.

The utility says it needs the revenue because earnings fell off 13 percent during an unusually cool summer, according to the Associated Press.

If the proposal is passed, the new hike and fee would go into effect on Jan. 1, and many see it as Georgia Power’s way of adding a tax or tariff on people who attempt to use sustainable energy.

“I wonder about the logic of adding another tax to my power bill,” said Basil Campbell, an Athens resident.

Campbell said his current bill is already 40 percent taxes and adding a solar “tariff’ would more than likely bring it up to 50 percent.

Moderators of the meeting, Liz Coyle, deputy director of Georgia Watch, and Seth Gunning, Sierra Club member, said they brought people together to give the public opportunity to provide their input directly to the Georgia Public Service Commission.

“Georgia Power affects all our lives… but we think it’s important for you to have a voice as well,” Coyle said. 

Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols was also in attendance. “I wasn’t really elected to rubber stamp anyone’s plan. I want to do what’s best,” he said.

In less than a decade, Georgia Power’s rates have increased on average about $44 per month, or about $600 a year, according to Coyle.

Gunning, who is also an associate organizing representative of the Beyond Coal Campaign, said,“We want to see as much clean energy come online.” He adds that this proposed tax on solar could deter people from those types of sustainable energy.

After hearing from the public, Echols said he didn’t “want to be in a position to defend Georgia Power.” He says he still wasn’t sure which way he was planning to vote on the proposal, but he wanted to make clear that he would be “accessible” to the public and that he would listen to, and respond to, any further complaints. 

“I’m not going to be able to please all of you, all the time,” he said. “And I hate that.”

Echols told the people at the town meeting that if anyone had any further questions about Georgia Power’s plan, he could email them the transcripts so they could know what the experts of the power company said directly.

The formal hearings for Georgia Power’s request will continue next week. The PSC is scheduled to vote on the proposals Dec. 17.