Press Release | December 20, 2022

Georgia Public Service Commission fails to expand popular rooftop solar program and approves electric bill increases

State agency approves first of many Georgia Power rate hikes

ATLANTA — Despite outcry from Georgians overburdened by energy bills amid inflation concerns, the state’s Public Service Commission voted today to approve the first of many electric bill increases that will hit customers’ pocketbooks over the next several years. In the rate case, which kicked off this summer, Georgia Interfaith Power & Light, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, intervened to advocate for lower bills and more rooftop solar access across the state.

At the vote, the Commission approved in large part a settlement filed by Georgia Power and the Commission’s Staff. Starting in January, the average residential customer bill will go up about $3.60 cents per month — but this is the first of many bill increases to come. Although Georgia Power’s proposed bill increases weren’t approved as one large rate hike, customers will see five or more increases over the next couple of years. In addition, costs from the ballooned budget of expansions at the Vogtle nuclear plant will start to hit bills in the spring, followed by a big bill increase caused by high fuel costs, primarily due to volatile and high gas prices. Then, the rate case decision approves further bill increases at the beginning of 2024 and 2025. Plus, in 2024, the full cost of the Plant Vogtle expansion project will impact customer bills as well.

With considerable rate hikes on the horizon, the Commission’s decision on Tuesday falls short by failing to ensure customers have the freedom to offset their energy costs with renewable energy options. Despite substantial evidence from numerous intervenors and support in Georgia law, the Commission’s decision does not expand the popular 5,000-customer net metering program for people that invest in rooftop solar. Instead, the Commission set a new compensation rate for solar energy that customers send back to Georgia Power’s grid. While the new rate offers a slight improvement from the existing rate of less-than 3 cents-per-kilowatt-hour, there was no evidence in this case to demonstrate that the new rate will move the rooftop solar market forward in Georgia, as many had hoped.

“The holidays look especially bright for Georgia Power this year, but much gloomier for everyday Georgians that are already struggling to pay the bills during these difficult economic times,” says Codi Norred, Executive Director of Georgia Interfaith Power & Light. “We’re disappointed the Commissioners failed to open up the net metering program for more rooftop solar customers. Net metering would make it much more affordable for congregations and families to go solar and reduce monthly electric bills.”

“Georgia Power customers should brace themselves because electric bills are on the rise,” says Jill Kysor, Solar Initiative leader and senior attorney in SELC’s Georgia office. “Customers need more options to control escalating costs, like access to rooftop solar. By failing to expand the net metering program, the Commission missed an opportunity to let folks lower bills and to create new local Georgia jobs.”

In response to strong testimony from GIPL, Commission Staff, and several other intervenors, the Commission rejected attempts by Georgia Power to increase reliance on a complicated and expensive demand charge rate schedule, or “tariff.” In 2019, Georgia Power convinced the Commission to use the complicated demand charge tariff as the default rate for new residential homes. In this rate case, the Commission reversed course and reverted back to using a standard volumetric rate as the default for new residential premises. Volumetric rates are much easier rates for customers to understand; they give customers a clear price signal: use less and pay less. The Commission also rejected attempts by Georgia Power to force rooftop solar customers onto the same complicated and expensive demand charge tariff. The bad proposal could have eroded savings for customers that invest in rooftop solar.

The Commission also rubber-stamped an eye-watering 10.5% profit rate for Georgia Power: a full 1% above the national average. Making matters worse, Georgia Power has the green light to keep 100% of earnings up to 11.9%, which is the top end of its earnings band. Every year for the last decade, Georgia Power has earned near the top — or above the top — of its band. Commissioners missed an opportunity to save Georgians money by keeping Georgia Power profits reasonable.

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

Press Contacts

Lam Ho

Communications Manager (GA, AL)

Phone: 404-521-9900
Email: lho@selcga.org

Partner Contacts

Codi Norred

Georgia Interfaith Power & Light

Phone: 404-377-5552
Email: codi@gipl.org