FILE - Utility power company lines

The Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) heard from citizens, companies and lawmakers about a proposed Georgia Power rate hike that would add $14.68 to the bills of average users in 2020.

Under the proposed rate plan, the current $10 base rate would go to $14.90 in 2020, $16.95 in 2021 and $17.95 in 2022.

In addition, customers would see an increase in usage charges that would impact customer bills between $8.45 a month and $13.24 a month depending on how much electricity is used.

The utility would add new pay-by-day rates and expand its flat rate plan, company officials said.

The rate increase would be the first for Georgia Power since 2013. Georgia Power President Paul Bowers told the commission the company has spent about $2 billion since 2013 on environmental compliance and spent about $450 million responding to damages due to hurricanes that hit the state.

The hearing opened with public comments from many opponents of the rate increase.

“This action you take, as you know, will affect more Georgians than almost any other action state government takes,” state Senator Vincent Fort, R-Atlanta, said.

Seventy-six-year-old Catherine Carter of Decatur said she has gone to “absurd lengths” to conserve energy and opposes the rate hike. She has not turned on her air conditioning all summer.

“Yes, it has been really uncomfortable for me and my dogs but we've survived,” Carter said. “Consequently, it disturbs me a lot to pay for the same monthly fixed fee [of $10] that customers who consume far more energy than I do each month.”

Several citizens said the rate hike would be a struggle for them to pay. Wyllene Watson said the money would cut into what she is trying to save for her young granddaughter. Her voice near a whisper because of a health issue, Watson said she picks up pennies “because I know they add up.” She proposed a 25-cent rate hike.

“I can save 25 cents,” she said.

Georgia Power did have some supporters, including Pelham Mayor James Eubanks. He said he wanted the commission to know about Georgia Power’s quick response after the town was hit by Hurricane Michael in October 2018. The town’s water system relied on electricity. The system was also the backup for nearby Autry Prison, which houses 17,000 inmates, Eubanks said.

The site of Georgia Power’s truck improved morale, he said.

“Power was restored to our water system within 48 hours of our tanks running dry,” Eubanks said, adding that power to most of the town was restored in four days, a week ahead of schedule.

The PSC will hold additional hearings in November and is scheduled to vote on the increase in December.

Georgia Power is the second utility to come before the commission and ask for a rate hike this year. Atlanta Gas Light filed a request in June that, if approved, would add about $4 to the average customer’s bill. The PSC will hold additional hearings on AGL’s request next month and also vote in December.