Customers feel powerless in face of electric rate increases
AUGUSTA, Ga. - “Every month I get a shut-off notice, you know, and barely make it,” said Georgia ratepayer Carole Crawford.
Crawford dreads her Georgia Power bill, which is $150 to $200 a month for her 400-square-foot home. She can’t afford to pay more if rates go up, but she isn’t surprised the company is pushing for it.
“They’re the big companies that own us basically, and sadly we need them,” she said.
Crawford is one of Georgia Power’s 2.7 million customers who could see a higher electricity bill starting this June and for the next three years.
Georgia Power plans to boost electric bills by 12% in June to cover the higher costs of natural gas and coal – and that’s on top of a 2.5% increase last month and more ahead that will help pay for the new units at Plant Vogtle.
A family that uses 1,000 kilowatt hours per month could see their bill go up by $15.90 each month.
Bill increases are stacking up for Georgia Power customers. Rates went up 2.5% last month in January after commissioners approved a three-year rate plan in December. Increases of 4.5% will follow in 2024 and 2025.
Customers will also have to pay the costs of the third and fourth nuclear units at Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro. Unit 3 is projected to begin operation in May or June, leading to a roughly $4 monthly increase for residential customers. A larger rate increase is likely to follow when Unit 4 begins operations, now projected before March 2024.
A final decision on the rate hike is expected from state regulators on May 16.
Wan Smith, who works for the non-profit Georgia Conservation Voters Education Fund, calls the proposed increase “absurd.”
“The average working class Georgian is going to be priced out of electricity,” said Smith.
Smith plans to speak up at the Public Service Commission hearings May 2 and 3.
“Grandmothers, seniors, aunts, uncles are going to have to decide between medicine and the electricity bill,” she said.
If the news of rate hikes is too much to bear, consider some of these money-saving tips to help save money as the weather heats up:
- Think thermostat – Heating and cooling costs make up nearly half of your average power bill. Set manual thermostats to 78 in the summer for peak efficiency and make the most of programmable thermostats, which help decrease energy use based on your lifestyle. If you’re going to be away from home for a long period of time, set your thermostat even higher, or turn it off completely.
- Insulate – An attic insulation of R-30 will help achieve lower heating and cooling bills.
- Seal ductwork – Leaky ductwork often accounts for 10-30% of total heating and cooling costs
- Use your fans – A ceiling fan costs only about $1.50 a month to operate and will help you feel cooler without having to adjust your thermostat.
- Clear air vents – To maintain consistent temperatures throughout your home, keep air vents and return-air registers clear of obstructions such as furniture, curtains and rugs.
- Trim plants and change filters – To ensure your unit receives proper air flow, change filters once a month, or every three months for pleated filters and trim plants around your outside units.
- Caulk and strip – Replace cracked or peeling caulk or weather stripping around doors and windows to save up to 10 percent on energy use.
- Use blinds and curtains – Cover sun-facing windows with blinds or curtains to help limit direct sunlight and heat from entering your home.
- Use double pane/storm windows – They provide additional insulation.
- Unplug certain electronics – Electronics account for 5 percent to 10 percent of household electricity use. Save up to $100 a year by either using an advanced power strip or unplugging electronics when not in use.
- HVAC system tune-up – Hire a technician to ensure your HVAC equipment is working properly and schedule an equipment tune-up if necessary.
- Lighting – Customers can replace their incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs to use 90% less energy. Each bulb can save an average of $80 in electricity costs over its lifetime.
- Recycle your refrigerator – By recycling a secondary refrigerator or freezer, customers can save an average of $125 in energy costs per year. By recycling an old refrigerator through Georgia Power’s program, customers can earn $35 and have their old refrigerator picked up for free. Visit www.GeorgiaPower.com/Refrigerator to learn more.
- Conduct a free, online energy checkup – Take a quick and easy online energy checkup that provides a customized energy usage report and ways to save money. Visit www.GeorgiaPower.com/EnergyCheckUp to get started.
- Home Energy Improvement Program – The program helps customers reduce energy use, save on energy costs and improve the indoor air quality and comfort of their homes. Residential customers can earn rebates from Georgia Power for implementing and installing qualifying energy savings improvements.
- Home Energy Efficiency Assistance Program – The program helps eligible income-qualified customers make free energy efficiency improvements in their single-family home. At no cost to the customer, a program contractor performs the recommended energy efficiency upgrades. Customers can learn more and apply at www.GeorgiaPower.com/HEEAP.
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