The fight over Georgia Power’s $1.1 billion rate hike request began in earnest Monday, with dozens of Georgians – most of them seniors – asking the state Public Service Commission to deny the increase because of financial hardship in the state.
"We can’t afford another increase in anything," said speaker Reginia Price. "We've had no cost of living adjustment in Social Security. The gas increases. The telephone increases. Where's it going to end?"
Speakers also criticized the company's bid for a new way of raising future bills and its proposal to raise its allowed rate of return from 11 percent to 11.95 percent.
"I never made 11 percent on my investments and I was a good investor," said Roswell retiree Carol Hunt, who also said she'd never attended a utility hearing before.
"Eight percent would be gracious."
Georgia Power chief executive Mike Garrett was the utility's first witness. He acknowledged that the request's timing was unfortunate.
"Let me begin by saying that the state of the economy makes this rate increase very difficult," he said, adding that the utility had tried to cut and spread out its request.
He said the company spent heavily to meet pollution control mandates even as the downturn battered its revenue. He said generation and customer service remained strong despite that.
"We have never experienced three months in a row with temperatures as high as this summer, " Garrett said. "And we had no brownouts. Other utilities have closed offices. We have 132 offices open in this state."
Monday's hearing was occasionally testy. PSC Chairman Lauren McDonald threatened to have one man ousted for refusing to stop talking when told.
It also included good news. Georgia Power comptroller Ann Daiss said the company is reducing its request by $33 million.
The first round of hearings resumes Tuesday. Two more rounds follow and the PSC will rule in late December. Any rate increase would go into effect in January, although Georgia Power wants to phase in increases over 26 months.
Georgia Power rate hearings
Hearings on the first part of Georgia Power's rate case resume Tuesday at roughly 9:30 a.m. at the PSC offices at 244 Washington St., a block south of the state Capitol.
Second and third rounds of hearings begin Nov. 8 and Dec. 1.
The commission vote is scheduled Dec. 21.
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