Commission approves Georgia Power deal to expand power plant, buy electricity

The Georgia Public Service Commission voted 4-1 Tuesday to approve an agreement between Georgia Power and the commission’s public interest advocacy staff. (John McCosh/Georgia Recorder)

This coverage is made possible through a partnership with WABE and Grist, a nonprofit, independent media organization dedicated to telling stories of climate solutions and a just future.

Georgia Power now has sign-off from state regulators to expand a power plant and buy more electricity from other utilities to serve an influx of businesses like data centers and factories. 

The Georgia Public Service Commission voted 4-1 Tuesday to approve an agreement between the state’s largest electric utility and the commission’s public interest advocacy staff. The plan also calls for additional battery storage.

About half of the outside interest groups engaged in the hearings, including industry representatives and consumer advocates, signed onto the deal. Others, including clean energy advocates, a group of local governments around the state and the U.S. Department of Defense, declined to sign.

Georgia Power has said the new business customers will pay for the additional construction and bring in so much extra revenue that it will offset future rate hikes. That promise is key because people’s bills have gone up four times in the past year and a half—and two more rate hikes are on the way.

Before voting for the deal, Public Service Commissioner Fitz Johnson warned that customers are tired of ever higher bills.

“Our ratepayers cannot continue to see rate hikes,” Johnson said, addressing one of Georgia Power’s lawyers. “That message needs to go back loud and clear.”

Learn more about Georgia’s Public Service Commission

Public commenters at a meeting last week were unimpressed with Georgia Power’s promises of “downward pressure” on rates due to this deal, which the company says will be at least $2.89 monthly.

“Whoop de do,” said Keyanna Jones, a pastor from Decatur. “I’m not interested in paying for what Georgia Power needed to do.”

The agreement doesn’t account for the fuel cost for the new natural gas turbines, which customers do end up paying for. Critics also note that Georgia Power is meeting the rising demand mostly with fossil fuels that worsen climate change instead of renewables.