State regulators have approved Georgia Power’s request to raise its rates by about $16 per month.
The electricity provider’s 2.6 million customers can expect their electric bills to go up by about $15.90 beginning on June 1, according to Georgia Power officials.
The five member Georgia Public Service Commission — which is in charge of deciding whether certain utility rates in the state are reasonable and fair — gave Georgia Power its greenlight during a Tuesday morning vote.
The approved rate hike comes just ahead of summer, when Georgians typically turn on their air conditioners at higher rates and electricity usage usually surges as a result.
Georgia Power has said it needed to raise its rates to offset the costs of higher gas prices it paid in 2022. The company uses natural gas and other fuels to produce electricity and was forced to pay more for those fuels last year partly due to a surge in gas prices after the start of Russia’s war with Ukraine.
“Today’s decision by the Georgia PSC helps spread out these additional fuel costs over three years and adds relief for income-qualified senior citizens through an increased discount program,” Georgia Power spokesperson John Kraft told Capital B in an emailed statement.
Here’s what you need to know about the upcoming rate increase.
So, why does Georgia Power want to increase my bill?
The answer to that question depends on who you ask. Georgia Power says Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is partly to blame, believe it or not.
Russia was Europe’s leading supplier of oil and natural gas until President Vladimir Putin ordered military forces to invade Ukraine more than a year ago. Ukraine’s western allies, including the United States, imposed economic sanctions on Russia in response, blocking the country from exporting energy to financially cripple its economy.
That move made it harder for Russia to sell oil to other nations and forced Europe to get most of its oil and natural gas from the U.S. This increased U.S. energy demand and caused gas prices in America to climb for everyone last year, including Georgia Power, which uses natural gas and other fuels to produce electricity.
The company made headlines in February when it told PSC it needed to raise monthly electricity rates by as much as $23 to recover roughly $2.1 billion in higher fuel costs it has paid in recent years, as well as projected future fuel costs for the next two years.
Georgia Power says it revised its price estimates on April 24 after determining a monthly rate hike of $15.90 would be enough. The company says it won’t earn a profit from the increase, despite reports they previously sought to increase profits for its shareholders.
Georgia Power’s critics, including former Democratic state Sen. Vincent Fort, have accused the company of attempted “price gouging.”
How will this affect you?
The metro area heats up to average temperatures nearing 90 degrees during the summer months. Turning on the air conditioner, assuming you have one, becomes even pricier when Georgia Power raises its rates.
The decision couldn’t come at a more pivotal time.
Experts say the rising cost of electricity and other utilities in Georgia is hurting Black households more than most.
Black residents throughout the state paid 37% more than the U.S. average on monthly natural gas bills between 2018 and 2021, for example, making Georgia’s rates the seventh-highest in the nation at the time.
Majority Black neighborhoods tend to have higher temperatures than white areas of the city due to a history of redlining, more concrete — which retains heat — and fewer trees, which tend to keep communities cooler.
This concept is known as the heat island effect.
With overall price inflation in Atlanta outpacing most cities in the country this year, it’s a wonder whether some Black folks can afford to pay more just to keep the lights on. And hotter temperatures can be dangerous for the elderly and infirmed.
When was the last time Georgia Power raised its rates?
It hasn’t even been six months.
The PSC approved Georgia Power raising its rates by about $3.60 per month in December, according to the Sierra Club, an environmental nonprofit. The company says prior to 2021, its fuel costs “had not risen in a decade.”
Are there financial resources available to customers?
More than 82,000 households receive utility assistance through Georgia Power’s Project SHARE program.
Project SHARE is a partnership Georgia Power has with the Salvation Army to offer emergency assistance to customers going through financial hardship. The program has doled out more than $17 million in aid to households in need over the years, according to Georgia Power.
Georgia’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program also has provided resources to help qualifying families pay their Georgia Power bill.
This story has been updated.