As autumn months stretch into winter, Sierra Club remains laser focused on making sure the Georgia Public Service Commission is adequately supervising our state’s monopoly utility.
Currently, the centerpiece of that strategy involves intervening in the legal process that governs how Georgia Power will pay for building and maintaining our electrical infrastructure. Those financial conversations—and the PSC’s oversight—will ultimately play into the economics of energy in Georgia, including what fuels are selected, how the fuels and energy are transmitted and stored, and perhaps most importantly, how much we pay for all of it.
This is the first time in six years that these financial questions have been examined, in a semi-judicial process known as a “rate case.” Although it’s not actual litigation, it has similar components to a trial, including sworn witnesses, expert testimony, and a formal record. At the end of the process in December, our five elected Public Service Commissioners will enter a final order about the economics of our electricity.
In this particular proceeding, Georgia Power is seeking to increase rates as well as a fixed-charge that will increase your power bill even before you turn on your lightswitch. This mandatory monthly fee would increase from the current $10/month to $17.95/month, no matter how much, or how little, energy you use.
Sierra Club has intervened in the proceeding (along with several of our allies and other stakeholders) to try to minimize the impacts of this proposed hike. Sierra Club is also objecting to the way that Georgia Power is seeking to pay for the costs of cleaning up the toxic coal ash ponds across the state. The residual pollution left over from burning coal has been stored in muddy ponds alongside the banks of our rivers, and groups from around the country have pointed out the obvious dangers to groundwater and recreation sites.
Finally, Sierra Club has also been encouraging Georgia Power to boost its ambition in selling fuel to the growing market for electric vehicles. As more and more vehicle manufacturers are making a diverse set of EVs for the marketplace, it will be increasingly important for drivers to have sufficient charging infrastructure around the state to facilitate carbon-free mobility.
Although Georgia Power is legally entitled to recover certain costs and reasonable expenditures that it has made, the questions about who pays for certain projects remains very much up in the air. Thanks to volunteer activists and Sierra Club staff attorneys, our vision of clean energy and an economically just system will be front and center for the foreseeable future.
Throughout the months of the rate case, Sierra Club and other groups will work to raise public awareness of these issues, as well as overall awareness of the PSC and how it regulates utilities. With public pressure on the PSC and Georgia Power, the clean energy imperative ought to be well-heard and well-considered, shaping the landscape in Georgia for years to come.