‘We need power:’ Georgia’s public service commissioner discusses spike in electric bill due to new reactor at Plant Vogtle

FILE -- Reactors for Unit 3 and 4 sit at Georgia Power's Plant Vogtle nuclear power plant on...
FILE -- Reactors for Unit 3 and 4 sit at Georgia Power's Plant Vogtle nuclear power plant on Jan. 20, 2023, in Waynesboro, Ga., with the cooling towers of older Units 1 and 2 billowing steam in the background. Company officials announced Monday, July 31, 2023, that Unit 3 has reached commercial operation after years of delays and billions in cost overruns. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)(John Bazemore | AP)
Published: Aug. 15, 2023 at 10:01 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 15, 2023 at 10:48 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - You may have noticed a jump in your electric bill recently.

The weather definitely plays a role but it also has to do with Georgia Power’s recent rate hike.

Georgia’s Public Service Commissioner says they’re using the money to pay for new nuclear reactors.

That new reactor at Plant Vogtle went live at the very end of July. It’s a project that took more than a decade and went $17 billion over budget.

But Commissioner Tim Echols says, they stand by their decision to build it. With major growth comes major needs and one of those needs is electricity.

“We need power. We’ve got Hyundai just coming in around the corner from Savannah, all of the Hyundai suppliers which is an enormous amount of energy. If you take just five companies that have recently come to Georgia, they will take the equivalent of the entire reactor that just came online and we have got many more coming. You can’t have other plants close and get worn out and retire without replacing it with something and Plant Vogtle is just that carbon-free replacement,” said Commissioner Echols.

A replacement that Georgia’s Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols says is a necessary part of maintaining power for Georgia.

Earlier this year, the Commission approved Georgia Power to increase the electric bills by 12%.

That went into effect in June.

“To plan for Georgia and to be able to put the costs into rates in a reasonable way, of course when you build things your cost will go up, bills will go up, we can’t help that. Toilet paper has gone up, cars have gone up, eggs have gone up - things rise in price. But the public services commission’s job is to make sure everything is ready for Georgia’s future.”

Although this may be a few years and much over budget, this is the newest fully nuclear power plant constructed in recent history.

The unit is expected to serve half a million households and businesses with an estimated life of 60-80 years. The commissioner says he’s thankful for everyone’s patience.

“I look at all the power that we need now, and I am really glad that we have kept at this and finished this project.”

This recent reactor is the third at Plant Vogtle and Echols says they’re going to open another one as soon as January but, that will mean another $5 rate hike.

Tips on saving money on your power bill

The commissioner also gave some tips for people who need help paying their bills.

Things such as Georgia Power’s Pre-paid plan and having your AC units serviced regularly.

Georgia has also added a discount for low-income seniors.

And, you can add insulation to your house to keep the air conditioning in.

“There is a problem with our lower income home, and Savannah has a lot of older housing, and those houses are very efficient. They have broken windows they are leaky, they don’t have a lot of installation in the walls, or the ceiling, and people are spending money and the power is just going right out the top of the house.”

The commissioner says people should reach out to Georgia Power to see what they may be eligible for.