On Tuesday, the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) made its ruling by a 4-1 vote on Georgia Power’s price case, notably granting an ailing-suggested $4 improve within the necessary month-to-month payment residential clients should pay –phased-in by $24 annually in 2021 and 2022– and setting a horrible precedent for potential comparable will increase sooner or later. 

Chris Carnevale, Bryan Jacob, and Stan Cross | December 19, 2019 | Clean Transportation, Georgia, Solar, Utilities

SACE and companions printed a press launch instantly after the PSC’s price case determination, which you’ll see here. This weblog put up is supposed to go a bit deeper into the problems than the fast-response press launch despatched Tuesday.

The Georgia Public Service Commission delivers its determination on Georgia Power’s price case.

On December 17, the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) made its ruling by a 4-1 vote on Georgia Power’s price case, notably granting an ailing-suggested $4 improve within the necessary month-to-month payment residential clients should pay –phased-in by $24 annually in 2021 and 2022– and setting a horrible precedent for potential comparable will increase sooner or later.

Commissioner Tim Echols made the movement to undertake the settlement agreement that Georgia Power made with primarily huge enterprise pursuits, and with no illustration of residential clients outdoors Atlanta metropolis limits. While the Commissioners didn’t exit of their method to symbolize public curiosity of their determination, customers endeavored to have their positions considered in the process by submitting greater than six thousand written feedback to the Commission in opposition to the payment hike and by talking at 4 PSC conferences on this continuing in addition to at city halls with Commissioners all through the state. As a results of unbelievable buyer participation and public stress, Georgia Power backed down from its initially proposed $7.95 month-to-month improve and settled on a $4 monthly improve. Yet even this $4 improve on residential clients is unjustified, based mostly on defective calculations, and much larger than most different payment hikes authorised by utility commissions across the nation. It drastically outpaces common inflation and the PSC ought to have denied it. 

Perhaps worse, by not addressing the difficulty of Georgia Power’s defective technique for calculating the associated fee to serve every buyer, the Commission has left clients weak to one other such egregious hike sooner or later. The authorised settlement settlement doesn’t clarify how choose events that signed onto the settlement decided that the necessary month-to-month payment ought to improve by $24 annually. SACE doesn’t consider this payment hike is in the most effective curiosity of ratepayers. Evidence in the record showed Georgia Power’s proposal to improve the payment was unjustified and based mostly on defective calculations that supplied false cowl for the Company to overcharge clients for primary entry to power. Intervenors and the PSC Staff introduced this concern to the forefront of their testimony, which –if addressed by the Commission– would have helped guarantee buyer safety. Instead, the Commission ignored enter from its workers, intervenors, and the purchasers they symbolize and has set a foul precedent for future will increase.

Putting the payment hike into perspective

To put the authorised payment hike into perspective, a $4 improve within the month-to-month payment (or a 40% improve, from $10 to $14) is, in accordance to expert testimony:

  • 33% greater than the nationwide common payment authorised in recent times ($10.52) and 40% greater than the nationwide median payment authorised in recent times ($10.00)
  • In each greenback phrases and share phrases, greater than double the nationwide common improve in recent times ($1.91/17.5% common improve nationally) and eight occasions better than the nationwide median improve ($0.50/5.3% median improve nationally)

Big impacts to clients who use the least energy

Opponents of the Georgia Power’s payment hike, together with SACE, have been ringing the alarm bells for months about how will increase within the necessary month-to-month payment place the biggest burden on clients who use the least energy. Because the payment is being hiked by the identical quantity per buyer account, no matter how a lot energy they really use, the payment hike has the biggest proportional impression on clients who use the least quantity of energy. 

This disproportionate impression on low-utilization clients takes away a few of clients’ skill to management payments and punishes energy conservation and solar energy. It additionally disproportionately harms clients who’re least ready to afford the pricey modifications since buyer teams that have a tendency to use much less energy embrace seniors, renters, and households incomes a decrease earnings. 

Small companies and farmers get uncooked deal

Small companies and farmers will probably be hit onerous with a doubling of their payment on every meter served by Georgia Power, reinforcing the concept the settlement settlement that the PSC authorised was primarily simply for huge enterprise. 

While residential clients’ payment will probably be hiked $4 over the following three years, the necessary month-to-month payment will probably be doubled for companies on Georgia Power’s small enterprise charges. Most small companies are on the “General Service” price construction and use much less energy on common than residential clients, thus are extremely impacted by the next month-to-month payment. The General Service month-to-month payment will improve from $18 to $36. The General Service value per kWh will lower, designed to mitigate among the elevated price of the upper month-to-month payment. However, this solely amplifies the impact of decrease customers paying proportionally extra throughout all General Service clients. The much less energy the small enterprise General Service buyer makes use of, the extra their prices will improve after these modifications take impact.

Farmers are additionally caught with critical points from the PSC’s approval of Georgia Power’s settlement settlement, as their month-to-month payment will probably be doubled for every meter. As SACE has written about previously as a result of farmers usually have a number of meters to run irrigation tools, they might have to pay the month-to-month payment a number of occasions over. This concern was raised in skilled testimony within the price case proceedings and the PSC Advisory Staff advisable that the Commissioners reject Georgia Power’s methodology that led to such an excessively inflated payment and take steps to keep away from making clients with a number of meters pay the identical payment a number of occasions. Yet the Commission didn’t do something of their closing determination to tackle this main downside for farmers.

Rays of hope?

It was a dreary, overcast day in Atlanta as the speed case concluded. That however, we all know the solar was nonetheless there and, sometimes, rays would break by way of the general cloudy forecast. 

If you’re a Georgia Power buyer focused on putting in rooftop solar, it will behoove you to act shortly.

So it was with the speed case determination. Albeit clouded with complexity and forecast to improve clients’ payments for years to come, a couple of rays of sunshine could be discovered peeking by way of. One of these is the adoption of “monthly netting” for clients with solar onsite. Historically, Georgia Power has utilized an oxymoronic time period of “instantaneous netting” which has beneath-compensated solar clients on the Renewable Non-Renewable (RNR) tariff and stifled the market for these techniques inside their service territory. Georgia Power’s technique of “instantaneous netting” compensates house owners of solar techniques for electrons put again onto the grid at a wholesale price, whereas then promoting the identical electron to a close-by buyer at retail price. “Monthly netting,” alternatively, will primarily maintain a tally of all electrons despatched to the grid by the solar system and all electrons the shopper pulls from the grid. At the top of the month, every kWh of electrical energy despatched to the grid will offset a kWh of electrical energy pulled from the grid at a one-to-one change price.

Most states have allowed clients to obtain the complete retail worth of the power they generate like this and Georgia will now be a part of them.

It needs to be identified, nonetheless, that we think about this a “limited” enchancment. Those limits had been imposed by Commissioner Echols’ movement itself: 

“The ‘Behind the Meter’ netting period length shall be changed from instant to monthly for the first five thousand rooftop solar ratepayers or until the installed capacity reaches 32 Mw – whichever comes first. This will be re-evaluated in the next rate case.”

For Georgia Power’s system with 2.5 million clients (2.2 million residential) and a peak demand of round 16,000 MW, the provision of this improved program might be curtailed as adoption reaches simply 0.2%. For comparability, when adopting internet metering years in the past, neighboring South Carolina imposed a 2% cap (i.e., ten occasions what the Georgia PSC has simply authorised). Earlier this yr, laws unanimously handed the South Carolina Legislature to take away that cap as a result of due to sturdy buyer demand, utilities had exceeded the cap threshold –with no adverse impacts on the electrical system– and the Legislature wished to shield the roles and financial improvement that this market phase represents.

Back in Georgia, 0.2% is similar determine that had been beforehand authorised by the Commission for the RNR tariff so whereas the 2019 price case improves the RNR program, it doesn’t broaden it. If you’re a Georgia Power buyer focused on putting in rooftop solar, it will behoove you to act shortly.

Electric car program a great end result in a largely dangerous determination

In an effort to assist reinvigorate Georgia’s electrical car (EV) market, the Public Service Commission authorised $8M to be spent yearly over the following three years for EV-associated infrastructure. $6M per yr will go into ‘EV make-ready’ investments and $2M will go in the direction of EV charging station rebates and client training. Getting extra EV chargers on the panorama will increase client confidence that in the event that they purchase an EV they are going to be ready to cost up when on the street. 

Utility-led EV make-prepared applications sometimes pay for the transformer upgrades, conduit, wires and different tools wanted to join EV chargers to the grid. The rationale behind EV make-prepared applications is three-fold:

  1. Getting power to a charging station website is pricey and people prices can inhibit the proliferation of chargers;  
  2. Bringing power from the grid to level-of-use is the utility’s accountability;
  3. Public utility commissions, together with the Georgia PSC, have concluded that make-prepared investments meet the simply, cheap and prudent requirements required to enable prices into the speed base.

Utilities have launched EV make-prepared applications in different markets together with New England and California. Though the applications are efficient at decreasing EV charging infrastructure prices for website hosts, make-prepared applications don’t assure new EV chargers on the panorama. Someone nonetheless has to buy and set up the charger. SACE’s hope is that the extra $2M Georgia Power has dedicated yearly to EV charger deployment and client training will probably be leveraged when wanted to guarantee Georgia Power’s make-prepared investments lead to extra EV chargers deployed, particularly in low-center earnings and rural communities at the moment missing charging infrastructure entry.

Learn more about SACE’s campaign to Electrify The South, through policy and education here. 

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