Electric bills will be rising on both sides of the Savannah River

Published: Dec. 15, 2022 at 11:03 AM EST|Updated: Dec. 20, 2022 at 12:54 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. - No matter which side of the river you live on, there’s a good chance your electric bill will be rising soon.

The Georgia Public Service Commission approved a $1.8 billion Georgia Power Co. rate increase Tuesday, raising rates by 12% over three years after tweaking an agreement between the company and commission staff to give the company more of what it wanted.

The all-Republican regulatory commission voted 4-1 for the plan, after agreeing to give the company more money to build charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, adopting a lower payment rate for electricity generated by rooftop solar panels than staff had recommended, and letting the company earn more on its capital than staff had recommended.

How to get help

Georgia Power has options for anyone struggling to keep the lights on. It’s accepting applications now for its home energy assistance program. To qualify, a family’s annual income must be less than or equal to 60 percent of the median income for a Georgia family. That’s about $28,000 for a single household and $62,000 a year for a family household. To apply, visit georgiapower.com.

The company had originally proposed a $2.9 billion rate increase, compared to $529 million that staff said was justified. The unit of Atlanta-based Southern Co. will get about as much as the $1.77 billion commissioners voted for in 2019.

Georgia Power says residential customers who use 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity will see their bills go up by $3.60 a month in January. That’s an increase of 2.8% over the $128 such customers now pay. Increases of roughly 4.5% would follow in both 2024 and 2025, pushing bills to around $144 a month.

Those won’t be the only increases for customers. Georgia Power is likely to ask the commission early next year to let it charge its 2.7 million customers more to cover higher natural gas costs. The commission has already approved an increase when the third nuclear reactor at Plant Vogtle begins generating electricity, also likely early next year. And a larger Vogtle-related increase would come when the fourth reactor is finished, possibly in 2024.

In South Carolina

In South Carolina, the state Public Service Commission voted 5-1 for an unusual midyear rate increase allowing Dominion Energy to charge 6% more starting in January.

The Dominion Energy hike means a residential customer who uses 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per month will see their bill rise from $132.79 to $140.53.

The rate increase is less than Dominion had sought. It filed in August to raise bills by 14% for residential customers, 17% for commercial customers and 27% for industrial customers. The lower increase was hammered out with the company by Public Service Commission staff.

Under the plan approved Thursday, commercial customers will see bills rise by 7%, while industrial customers will pay 11% more.

Dominion’s yearly rate is usually set in April, and the company warns that it will need another round of rate increases then because the increase approved Thursday will leave it a projected $400 million short of what it will pay for coal and natural gas to fuel its generating plants. Regulated utilities are traditionally entitled to recover the full cost of fuel from customers.

Dominion’s manager of regulation, Thomas Rooks, called Thursday’s increase a “measured step.”

“This is a fair proposal right now for customers,” Rooks said.