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'I'm almost insulted about having to be here to beg for you not to raise our rates' | Customers attend Georgia Power rate hearings

Public outcry started as hearings began Tuesday for a Georgia Power rate increase that could add $14 a month to power bills.

ATLANTA — Starting January, Georgia Power Company's customer bills could go up about $14 a month, if state regulators approve the increase. Now customers are formally voicing their concern over the proposal.

The first of three hearings on the rate hike began Tuesday at the Public Service Commission building in Downtown Atlanta and started with about an hour of public comment. The commission heard from a number of people, some expressing their support, others talking about how any rate hike would be hard on them and their families.

Georgia Power has requested to raise rates by 12% over the next three years, laying the foundation over how much profit the utility should earn, how much solar panel owners should be paid and how rates should be structured. Ultimately, the company is requesting to collect a cumulative $2.8 billion more from its 2.3 million customers starting in 2023. 

RELATED: Hearings begin on Georgia Power proposal to raise rates 12%

Tuesday's hearing brought in Georgia Power customers from across the state from Valdosta to Savannah.

Some, like Eugene Vickers of Hawkinsville, opposed the rate hike.

"We shouldn't have to be here I'm almost insulted about having to be here to beg for you not to raise our rates," said Vickers.

Others, like lineman Dew Stover, support the increase.

"We need not look further than Texas or California as to what happens when there is not a sustained focus on grid investment," Stover said.

Georgia Power maintains the hike is needed to fund a $7 billion improvement to the state's power grid to cut down on power outages and bring power back quicker when it's lost by burying lines and installing self-healing networks. The company says for the typical residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours per month would see an increase of $14.32 per bill in 2023, $1.35 more in 2024 and $0.62 a month more in 2025, for a total increase of $16.29 over a three-year period.

The company said it’s necessary to keep up with energy demands but the people who could be facing higher bills don't want any increase at all. 

"Is anyone gonna give us any rights and not have all these bills going up and up and up?" Joetta Barnett asked during public comment.

The hearings continue through Thursday. There will be two additional hearings over the next two months and the commission will vote on the rate hike in December. If it's approved it would take effect in January 2023. 

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