SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Georgia Power customers could start seeing higher bills as soon as next month. It’s the second of three increases expected for customers this year alone, and the Public Service Commission will meet to discuss this issue next week.
The potential $15 a-month increase has many customers concerned, but it’s an increase that Tim Echols, the vice chair of the Georgia Public Service Commission, says is unavoidable.
“Folks saw their rates tick up a little bit in January, and that’s just from improving the grid, replacing transformers, all the things that we would normally have to do when things wear out,” said Echols. “So that happened already, but now we’re looking at some excess charges for natural gas, this happened because of the frankly, the Russia-Ukrainian conflict.”
Come Tuesday, commissioners will be deciding how much of an increase is needed and for how long.
“I think the commissioners are trying to decide, how long do we allow the power company to collect this? Do we have to then collect it kind of quick in two years or do we spread it out to three or four or five years and where the payment would be less but it would be longer?” Echols said.
He adds that the commission is doing its best to take feedback from customers into account, but with record inflation and the summer months fast approaching, some people say this isn’t the time to add to their financial burden.
“I know that we have a lot of people living in Savannah who are on fixed incomes, whether they are the elderly or whether they are students who can’t afford such hikes in such basic necessities like power, especially in these times when everything is increasing in cost. So I don’t know why they are choosing now to do that,” said Krista Harberson, a Savannah resident.
Still, Echols says it’s because of this inflation that the hikes are needed to offset the cost of natural gas.
“It’s not an easy decision and certainly with Plant Vogtle coming online later this year with an increase there, it’s just not a great time for Georgia ratepayers,” Echols said.
Echols says despite the current increases, once all four units at Plant Vogtle are up and running, it will help to offset customer costs – as the plant will provide power to roughly 1 million homes. He also says the company has increased its senior discount and plans on doing that again in the near future.