HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Opinion: Power rate hike proposal focuses on customers, reliability

Nothing happens by accident — and a reliable electric and natural gas grid is no exception. As rates go up to reflect the true cost of service, here’s why the consumer wins in our state.

First, instability in our energy grids ruins everyone’s day. Georgia Power, Atlanta Gas Light and our many EMCs and gas marketers help your home and business stay connected. Even massive hurricanes knock us out for less than one week because of great resiliency planning and logistics. While not perfect, much about our energy delivery system is top-drawer. Smart meters allow instant reconnection — and many states do not have them yet. Georgia does. We have replaced all of our old cast iron and bare steel pipe underground. Many states have not. And we have prioritized a diverse energy portfolio treating the grid much like you do your 401(k). This approach helps us hedge against spikes in fuel prices or unintended consequences like we saw with the oil tanker crisis in the Middle East recently that sent gas prices soaring.

Second, while rates may need to be increased, this follows eight years of relatively flat bills for the typical electricity customer. This is primarily due to low fuel prices, the corporate tax reduction, and several credits and refunds approved by our Public Service Commission. Many of the groups that are protesting against any increase were radio silent on the refunds — but take a look at your bills over the last 8 years. The truth is that federal regulations — which we are constantly pushing back against — account for a significant portion of Georgia Power’s proposal to increase rates.

Third, the utility customer is evolving and we want to make sure our utilities evolve too. What I mean by that is millennials, who now make up the majority of the workforce, have a different philosophy on technology. They grew up with data plans and now Lyft and Uber. These customers expect more green technology and more information. Our Public Service Commission — elected statewide every six years — is quite aware of their preferences and we have been transitioning our grid over the last 10 years. New, advanced reactors at Vogtle, creative prepay plans, smart home technologies, and a massive amount of new solar — just to name a few.

The state of energy in Georgia is great and we want to keep it that way. Let’s keep Georgia the best place to do business in America.

Tim Echols is vice-chair of the Georgia Public Service Commission. The PSC will vote on Georgia Power’s rate request on Tuesday, December 17th.

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