PolitiFact Georgia heard about the claim and decided to do some research. Georgia Power has nearly 2.4 million customers. That’s about one out of every three adults in this state.
The Partnership for Southern Equity, an organization that tries to help the working poor in metro Atlanta, put together the meeting.
The crux of the meeting was that there ends up being a lot of inequity in the communities when it comes to utility bills. Some low-income Atlanta-area residents live in older homes that are not energy-efficient, thus, their utility bills are super high.
Company officials at the meeting stressed that there are programs to help those people. In general, the company contended at the meeting, their service is less expensive in comparison to other parts of the country. We found the company has been below the national average, but by how much?
Georgia Power, a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Co., is regulated by the state’s Public Service Commission. It gets 47 percent of its fuel from natural gas; 35 percent from coal; 18 percent from nuclear; and a small amount from hydropower and other renewable sources. As a regulated monopoly, Georgia Power must provide electricity to all customers in its territory. It is allowed to recoup the costs of providing that power plus a profit. The average bill was expected to increase by 44 cents a month in January.
Georgia Power credits programs such as free in-home energy audits for residential customers plus others that assist commercial customers in installing energy-efficient equipment in their facilities for lower costs than most utilities. The company also recently introduced My Power Usage – an online program that allows residential customers to track their daily energy costs, view their projected bill, set up email notifications about their usage and more, company spokesman Jacob Hawkins said.
Georgia Power bases its claim on how much it charges customers for its services, Hawkins said. In 2012, Georgia Power customers paid about 9 cents per kilowatt hour. The national average, he said, was 10.13 cents per kilowatt hours. The difference was about 11 percent.
The federal government has an agency that keeps track of how much money Americans pay for energy use, the U.S. Energy Information Administration. EIA data are used by other organizations, such as the Edison Electric Institute, an 80-year-old organization of U.S. shareholder-owned electric companies. The EIA figures we found for Georgia Power customers in 2012 were nearly identical to what the company sent us. The national average in 2012 was slightly lower, 9.865 cents per kilowatt hour. Thus, Georgia Power customers paid 8.7 percent less than the national average, according to our analysis of 2012 data. In 2011, we found Georgia Power customers paid 2.9 percent below the national average.
Before 2011, Georgia Power customers paid 10 percent less than the national average eight consecutive years. They paid more than 15 percent below the national average in five of those years.
Georgia Power officials sent us their own figures, saying it’s not an “apples to apples” comparison to include every utility company in the nation. The company shared a comparison that focused solely on investor-owned utilities. Georgia Power’s numbers showed its customers paid 10 percent or more below the national average in nine of the past 10 years. In 2011, Georgia Power customers paid 5.1 percent below the national average.
To sum up, Georgia Power official Ron Shipman said the company’s customers pay 10 percent to 15 percent below the national average. Our findings showed Shipman’s numbers were off the past two years but on point for the prior eight years. Georgia Power’s research was fairly similar.
Since he was slightly off for 2012, but right for eight of the nine years before that, we rate Shipman's claim as Mostly True.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Standing pat. Utility: No new plants for several years,” Feb. 1, 2013
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Georgia Power bills will actually increase,” Nov. 2, 2012
Emails from Georgia Power spokesman Jacob Hawkins, June 13 and 18, 2013
Email from U.S. Energy Information Administration, June 14, 2013
U.S. Energy Information Administration Form EIA-826 detailed data, www.eia.gov/electricity/data/eia826/