Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Smallest Users Eyed for Spikes in Energy; Industrial Users Want Georgia Power to Bill More for Summer Use

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Smallest Users Eyed for Spikes in Energy; Industrial Users Want Georgia Power to Bill More for Summer Use

Article excerpt

Byline: JAKE ARMSTRONG

ATLANTA -- A fight is brewing over Francine Wright's monthly Georgia Power bill.

On one side is a consortium of paper, building products and textile manufacturers who want the utility to charge her -- and every other residential customer -- less for the fuel it needs to produce energy in colder months, and more during summer months, when Wright cranks up the air conditioner in her Atlanta home.

Pricing like that better reflects the cost of fuel, which rises with the temperature in summer, and could spur consumers to conserve energy, the consortium says.

On the other side is the Consumers' Utility Counsel, a division of the state that goes to bat with utility regulators for residents and small businesses. The counsel says such a move would unfairly shift millions of dollars worth of fuel costs from large industrial users to customers like Wright and mom-and-pop merchants.

"I think it is awful when everything is going up except for salaries," said Wright, 52. "I am going to use less energy anyway. It just costs too much."

The point of contention between the consortium and the Consumers' Utility Counsel is a proposed return to seasonal fuel rates, which cropped up late last month as the Public Service Commission approved Georgia Power's request to raise its fuel cost recovery surcharge. The company can charge an additional $3 to the average residential customer to cover a $220 million gap created by the rising cost of coal and other power-generation fuels.

Currently, Georgia Power charges an average rate year-round to purchase fuel. From time to time, the commission adjusts the fuel charge depending on fluctuating costs.

Had seasonal fuel rates been in place, a standard residential bill would have risen an average of 8 cents a month in the next 12 months, according to Jeff Pollock, a consultant for the consortium.

But in four summer months alone, bills would have jumped by $6.25 under seasonal fuel rates, said Matthew Hardy, director of the Consumers' Utility Counsel. The proposed plan also would have shifted $2.5 million in fuel costs from industrial users to residents and small businesses, Hardy said. …

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