Georgia Power rates rising 12% just as summer’s heat arrives

Summer can get hot in the two-state region, and now is the time to get your air-conditioning system ready.
Published: May. 16, 2023 at 1:59 PM EDT
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ATLANTA - Electricity bills for Georgia Power Co. customers will be going up 12% beginning in June due to higher fuel costs, then even more down the line as we start paying off the expansion of Plant Vogtle.

What’s worse, it’s happening just as the weather outside heats up and we have to crank up our air conditioning.

Georgia’s five elected utility regulators voted unanimously Tuesday to let Georgia Power collect an additional $6.6 billion from its 2.7 million customers over the next three years.

That will boost a typical residential bill to $147.50 a month, up $15.90 from the current $131.60.

It’s one of at least three increases Georgia Power customers are likely to see this year after a rate increase in January.

And coming up, customers will begin paying more when the third nuclear reactor reaches full operation at Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro.

Units 1 and 2 at the plant have been operating for decades, but Units 3 and 4 have been under construction in recent years. Unit 3 is due to become fully operational any day, and Unit 4 could follow by the end of the year.

The expansion at the plant was plagued by delays and cost far more than expected.

But the June hike is die to higher costs for the coal and natural gas used by conventional power plants.

Typically, a utility is allowed to charge customers for the cost of fuel, but is not allowed to make a profit on those charges, unlike the profits Georgia Power is guaranteed for investing in power plants and transmission lines. The commission typically decides how much Georgia Power can collect for fuel once every two years. In the meantime, if prices change, the company may collect too much or too little.

During the two-year period now ending, the company collected far too little money. Natural gas prices skyrocketed because of an improving economy and the Ukraine war, and coal prices rose even more steeply in part because of supply and labor shortages.

“It’s reality; we’ve got to face the issue,” said Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald. “We owe the bill, and we’ve got to pay it.”

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 Augusta. Unit 3 is projected to begin operation in May or June, leading to a roughly $4 a month increase for residential customers. A larger rate increase is likely to follow when Unit 4 begins operations, now projected before March 2024.

Saving money

Here are some tips that might help you cope with the higher costs this summer:

  • 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.