Double electric hike takes effect New Year's Day

Two simultaneous increases in the cost of electricity from Georgia Power take effect on New Year's Day.

A rate increase approved by utility regulators Dec. 21 and a nuclear fee mandated by the state Legislature in 2009 both hit bills for the first time in January.

The combined impact will push up the typical residential power bill -- defined as 1,000 kilowatt hours of power usage -- by nearly $14.50 per month or almost $175 a year.

The rate increase allows Georgia Power to recoup its investments in infrastructure, including transmission expansions and government-mandated environmental controls, and to earn a return on those investments of 11.15 percent.

The nuclear fee begins collecting the costs of two new reactors at Georgia Power's Vogtle nuclear plant. The company expects to bring the new reactors on line in 2016 and 2017.

State lawmakers mandated the fee in 2009 after a vigorous lobbying campaign by Georgia Power. Consumer groups opposed the fee.

The utility says the early collection will allow it to shave hundreds of millions of dollars from the cost of financing the $14 billion project.

The state's municipal power companies and most of its electric membership cooperatives are sharing in the Vogtle costs, although most are not charging customers yet.

Georgia Power customers will see further increases in 2012 and 2013 under a compromise deal approved two weeks ago by the state Public Service Commission.

The further increases will add about $4 more to the typical residential monthly bill.

By 2013, that typical bill will be $216 more per year than it is today.