Georgia Power electric rate hike meets resistance

A week from Tuesday, state utility regulators will decide on a three-year deal that would give Georgia Power one of its biggest rate hikes in history -- and eventually add another $15 to the typical family's monthly electric bill.

The deal was signed by Georgia Power, the Public Service Commission's litigating staff and many -- but not all -- of the interest groups involved in fighting the utility's original, $1.1 billion rate hike request.  It would give the company an $844 million hike.

Now the holdouts are pushing back, in a last-ditch attempt to shave the rate increase further.

They filed their own three-year deal proposal at the state Public Service Commission last week, asking the commission to approve that version instead of the one agreed to by everybody else.

The holdouts include the consumer group Georgia Watch, AARP, The William Bonnell aluminum manufacturing company in Newnan and Resource Supply Management, which argues for lower commercial power rates.

The groups said their proposal is a compromise for all of them, and asks for a series of changes in the deal put forth by Georgia Power.

Those changes include cutting Georgia Power's rate hike to $435 million and its maximum allowed profits from 12.25 percent to 10.75 percent.  The group also wants all excess profit returned to customers, instead of the two-thirds in the original deal.

"In this economy, ratepayers can not afford to pay inflated profit margins for necessities like electricity," Georgia Watch said in a brief.

The group also wants to nix a part of the deal that would allow the company to file for a new rate increase inside the three- year term if its profits fall below a certain level.

The alternative deal isn't likely to fly, since Georgia Power and PSC staff have signed another one.

The PSC can't impose binding multi-year rate plans on the company if the company doesn't agree.

It may create some fireworks, though, when the commission discusses the case for a final time next week.

The final vote is scheduled Dec. 21.