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Associated Press: Georgia Power quizzed on proposed rate hike

*See comments from Georgia WAND member and anti-nuclear activist, Barbara Antonoplos

By RAY HENRY , 12.01.10, 03:36 PM EST

ATLANTA -- Critics of Georgia Power said the company should further limit electricity costs as its executives gave their first testimony Wednesday about a plan to raise power prices, though by less than first proposed.

The Southern Co. subsidiary filed a proposed settlement last month calling for hikes in electricity prices over three years, resulting in an increase of more than $15 for the average household electricity bill by 2013. Georgia Power offered to lower its target profits from a plan it unveiled in July. It ditched a proposal to speed up rate increases if profits fall below those targets.

Members of the Public Service Commission are expected to vote on the settlement reached between the utility and the PSC staff at a Dec. 21 meeting. While the commission is not bound to the settlement, the agreements have previously provided the framework for a final decision.

"This settlement agreement has many benefits for our customers and the company," Ann Daiss, a Georgia Power vice president, told the commission. "It allows for relatively stable, predictable base rates for the next three years at a significant savings compared to our original requested increase."

Other witnesses testifying at the hearing urged Georgia Power to make deeper cuts to its profit targets, which would help blunt rate increases for customers during a recession that has left nearly 10 percent of people unemployed in the state.

"This isn't optional - this is people's electricity," said Clare McGuire, director of the consumer energy program at Georgia Watch, a watchdog group.

Barbara Antonoplos, 57, of Atlanta, said the utility was raising its rates partly because of what she considers a risky investment of building two more nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro. Lenders regard nuclear projects as risky, and more cash from a rate hike could strengthen the company's credit rating and help it secure more a more favorable loan.

"Don't make it easier for Georgia Power to pass their bad decisions along to us," she told the commissioners.

Georgia Power has agreed to lower its target return on investment from 11.25 percent in a proposal filed in July to 11.15 percent under the current settlement. The firm also promised it would not seek a rate increase from the PSC unless the return on its retail business is projected to drop below 10.25 percent.

The utility has abandoned an earlier plan that would have allowed it to seek more frequent rate increases, which drew opposition from retailers and other business groups.

*This article can be found online at Forbes, Businessweek,  and Yahoo Finance, among other publications.

If you'd like to weigh in on this issue, please contact your Public Service Commissioners.

Contact your Public Service Commissioners:

Chuck Eaton: 404-657-2020; ceaton@psc.state.ga.us

Stan Wise: 404-657-4574; stanwise@psc.state.ga.us

Lauren “Bubba” McDonald: 404-463-4260; lmcdonald@psc.state.ga.us

Bobby Baker: 404-656-4515; bbaker@psc.state.ga.us

Doug Everett: 404-463-6746; deverett@psc.state.ga.us

The main PSC switchboard number is 404-656-4501.

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