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Fighting a Giant Rate Increase

In 2010, AARP Georgia waged a months-long fight to curb a request by Georgia Power to raise rates by more than $2 billion over three years.

Responding to a call from AARP Georgia, the state Public Service Commission (PSC) held a set of rate hearings outside Atlanta to hear from Georgia Power customers. AARP rallied members who packed meeting halls around the state to protest the rate hike, one of the largest increases in Georgia history.

Members sent thousands of emails to individual PSC commissioners, urging them to reject the increase, which is raising a typical customer’s bill by $10 a month. Member Pamela Crouse of Chatsworth, Ga., created a video describing how “she is forced to live in one room to stay warm” and “wakes up freezing” in the winter due to high energy costs. Within two weeks, the video drew more than 4,000 page views.

Still, by a 4-to-1 vote, the PSC approved Georgia Power’s request, which took effect in January 2011.

AARP Georgia, with nearly one million Georgia members, opposed the deal made by Georgia Power and the PSC staff, calling it lopsided, out-of-step with today’s economy, and not in line with the many concerns expressed by thousands of Georgia Power’s residential customers.

“This deal was crafted by Georgia Power for Georgia Power,” said Will Phillips, associate state director of AARP Georgia. “It raises customer rates by hundreds of millions of dollars more than is necessary in one of the worst economies in a generation.”

Phillips said the biggest component of the rate plan which AARP and its allies contested is a double-digit profit for Georgia Power that will start at 11.15 percent and would be allowed to grow to 12.25 percent or above, far in excess of what other states are allowing their utilities to earn.

“Georgians have told us and they’ve told this Commission that this is not the time to give Georgia Power a rate increase of this size,” said Phillips. “Given this, and the evidence provided by experts in this case, the rate decision is disappointing and will be a bitter pill to swallow for many Georgians.”

AARP, along with Georgia Watch and other parties, had offered an alternative proposal that cut the now-approved deal nearly in half but which would have still provided Georgia Power with the ability to cover all of its costs, plus a more reasonable return.

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