Energy assistance groups worry about how rise in Georgia Power bill could impact low-income customers

Published: May. 17, 2023 at 5:49 PM EDT|Updated: May. 17, 2023 at 6:17 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - As temperatures begin to rise, some power costs in our area will soon be going up too.

This after state regulators approved a plan Tuesday for Georgia Power to raise electricity bills.

Under the plan, Georgia Power customers will see their electricity bills increase by 12% starting in June. It’s an increase that energy assistance groups say could put an added strain on many low-income customers.

“You’re talking a significant increase for the most vulnerable populations in our community,” said Terry Tolbert.

Terry Tolbert helps run the Economic Opportunity Authority for Savannah-Chatham County.

The group provides hundreds of dollars in energy payment assistance for thousands of low-income seniors in our area.

Tolbert worries that with recent rises in food and rent costs, the Georgia Power rate hike will only put more stress on the finances for those the group helps.

“They may not be able to continue to pay their rent. They may have to give up some other things that are necessary for the household in order to maintain the energy consumption, and those people may have some health issues.”

The state Public Service Commission unanimously approved a plan that would raise the typical Georgia Power residential bill by nearly $16 beginning in June.

The company says rising fuel costs are partly why they need to collect an additional $6.6 billion over the next three years.

“We’re not allowed to earn any profit on this portion of the bill. This is simply a recovery of those costs, of those higher fuel costs that we’re seeing and what we expect for the next couple of years,” said John Kraft, the Georgia Power media relations manager.

Now with the increase set to take effect in the coming weeks, Tolbert says the amount of money that comes with assistance may not stretch as far in the future.

“In some cases, if they have a disconnect notice, we may not be able to pay that bill unless they come up with the difference between what we can subsidize their utility bill for that period, or not.”

With the summer heat now approaching and many turning to air conditioning to keep cool, both the EOA and Georgia Power recommend conserving energy to reduce costs.

The EOA also points out that under this agreement, commissioners voted to raise fuel discounts for low-income seniors to $9.50 a month - that’s up from the $8 a month Georgia Power initially agreed to.

For information on energy payment assistance, you can visit the Economic Opportunity Authority for Savannah-Chatham County or Georgia Power’s website.