Dear <<First Name>>,

On Tuesday December 20th at 10 AM, just 7 days from today, elected officials with the Georgia Public Service Commission will vote on whether to grant Georgia Power a Christmas tree stuffed with cash for Georgia Power and raising electric bills.

If the monopoly gets everything they want Georgians will face the highest power bills in the nation.

“Completely out of line”, says Liz Coyle, Executive Director for Georgia Watch.

Completely out of line

Here is our problem: Georgia Power been receiving outsized profits of billions of dollars for years. That’s because Georgia Power is building 2 new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle, the most expensive power plant ever built on earth, right here in Georgia at $34 billion and still not done.

Huge rate increases must happen every 3 years to keep the Wall Street bond ratings agencies happy because of the risk from all that money Georgia Power has spent but not getting back yet. Huge cash flows are required in because of huge cash flows going out. And Southern Company shareholders must be kept happy. Otherwise everyone involved gets in trouble…and elected officials at the Ga PSC don’t want to get in trouble.

Want to know what legalized corruption looks like? It looks like this.

I’ve known since 2019 that Georgia Power was gonzo for profits when they went after and received a Return on Equity (10.5%) well above what other utilities receive (9.25%) and also got other profitability measures they asked for that in total delivers $783 million in excess profits every year from our power bills. Those decisions have pushed Georgia Power bills to 5th highest in the nation.

No other U.S. utility receives profits measures like this. Now even 10.5% is high enough. Ga Power is asking for 11% ROE and permission to keep all profits up to 13.5% ROE. This is crazy high profits and yes, completely out of line. It destabilizes families and contributes to the huge problem of inequality that people struggle with.

I knew Georgia Power was gonzo for profits but I didn’t realize until early 2020 that Georgia Power was also evil. There is no other word to describe going after unsophisticated consumers by enrolling them onto a demand charge rate plan falsely called Smart Usage that raises their bills 50% or more. And I know: I’ve got copies.

Commissioners were warned in 2019 that this rate plan would harm low energy use customers, who tend to be low income, but they approved it anyway. And the data is back: over 90% of low energy use customers are paying more. How much more? Neither the Georgia PSC nor Ga Power has conducted a study. Isn’t that interesting… no documentation means they can’t be held accountable for the higher bills.

The commission’s mandate is to protect consumers from monopoly abuse of power by setting just and reasonable rates, but they aren’t. This rate plan is a perfect example.

And in Georgia Power’s June 2022 rate filing they had the gall to ask for this rate plan to be expanded. I guess the money must be pretty good - targeting the poor often is.

These might seem like strong words. Let me show you. This graphic is from “intervenors” or a 3rd party to the rate case that is legally able to obtain data. They did the study that the commissioners and Georgia Power wouldn’t. Every dot to the left of the purple vertical line (also circled in red) represents a customer who paid more on this rate plan vs. the traditional rate plan.

Want to see just some of the research the Commission was shown in 2019 as part of those pleading (including me) not to approve this harmful rate plan?

From inside that report:

Commissioners didn’t care and approved it anyway. It’s another profit stream. Utility watchdog Energy & Policy Institute is tracking Georgia’s misbehavior towards customers and published an exposé last week.

How does Georgia Power explain their profits far above peer utilities? Because they’re Georgia Power. Yes I know that’s circular logic. They can’t tell the truth - that’s it’s for Plant Vogtle and shareholders. When Public Interest Advocacy staff suggest they should only earn normal profits like their peers, Georgia Power claimed that’s radical and threatened that reduced profits “might impact grid instability”.

Watch for yourself. This is Public Interest Advocacy attorney Dan Walsh asking Ga Power’s Chief Financial Officer Aaron Abramovitz why he used to word radical:

We are talking about Ga Power here

Want to see how effective PSC officials have been at handing big profits to Georgia Power and failing to balance the needs of customers with the utility?

And guess what? Wall Street loved the quarterly profit report!

Let’s also talk about climate change. Georgians will profoundly and negatively experience the impacts of climate change, especially people of color and energy burdened communities. Huge heat waves will be more common and severe. While all people will suffer, Georgians who work outside or don’t have air conditioning are most at risk.

Despite the urgent need to address climate change, Georgia Power is asking the Georgia PSC for a Christmas tree stuffed with policies that limit distributed energy, which is when consumers generate their own electricity. They want to

  1. end net metering, which pays rooftop solar customers the same rate for adding energy on the grid as Georgia Power charges for it. By ending that program Georgia Power will pay only 2-3 cents/kWh so the investment doesn’t pencil out.

  2. charge a $200 interconnection fee which further curtails consumer participation in solar and ensures customers don’t see a payback for 20+ years.

  3. increase community solar monthly block fees from $25 to $28, which is already a dead market since the $25 fee was too high for the investment to pencil out.

Georgia is already in 43rd place in rankings for rooftop solar. Georgia Power wants to stay there. Yet Georgia needs about 10-15x the amount of solar to meet the nation’s (and Southern Company’s) goals of reducing carbon emissions of 50% by 2030 and zero by 2050. We cannot get there with only utility solar that profits Georgia Power. Georgia is one of the top carbon emitters per capita.

Do people care? Yes they do. Dozens of Georgians took time out of their lives to come down to the commission offices and give public comments asking for net metering.

Georgians want rooftop solar !

Where do we go from here?

  1. Help me raise awareness by forwarding this email to your connections and asking others to sign up. Email to subscribe.

  2. Download my “Ga PSC voting scorecard” and watch the vote take place by clicking the You Tube button at the Ga PSC website which will show the 30 minute meeting live on Tuesday 12/20 at 10 AM. Live tweet or live stream what you see.

  1. Are you on social media? Tag the commissioners so they know people are watching. In the past they’ve operated under the cover of darkness. Ask them not to stuff Georgia Power’s pockets with more money and ask them to encourage rooftop solar. Tell them Plant Vogtle is their problem and not to make it yours. Tell them you will be watching their vote on 12/20.

@tpridemore @timechols @ShawforGeorgia @FriendsForFitz @BubbaPSC

  1. If you aren’t on social media contact the commissioners via email:

Tim Echols Jason Shaw Trisha Pridemore Bubba McDonald Fitz Johnson

  1. Pay attention to the 2023 PSC elections where Commissioner Fitz Johnson will be opposed by Shelia Edwards and my opponent Tim Echols is opposed by me. Low voter engagement on Ga PSC elections are why things are bad. Help us change that.

The 2023 election date is not scheduled yet, but the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to rule in early January on the voting rights violations that plaintiffs won in lower court. I will report back.

Let me know if you have any questions or thoughts. Happy holidays!

- Patty Durand