ALBANY Facing the second multi-million dollar spike from the provider of its electricity in two years, WG&L officials said during their meeting Thursday that residential and consumer electric rates could jump by at least 10 percent to help offset the unexpected costs.
The Albany Water, Gas & Light Commission is the largest single consumer of electricity from the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia in the state and Thursday, WG&L Finance Director John Vansant, III, told board members that MEAG has given notice of a proposed $7 million fee increase for the next calendar year.
In total, the increase translates to nearly $16 million in increases forced on WG&L since 2010.
In July, WG&L Board Members voted to raise rates in order to generate additional revenues to help offset the current fee increases, which Vansant said it did to the tune of roughly $4 million. But, speaking candidly to the board, Vansant said that just wasn't enough.
Despite the discussion, the board took no action to raise rates Thursday.
"We're in a $12 million hole here," Vansant said. "We're going to have to find that money somewhere or the alternative is to run out of money. It's as simple as that."
The fee increases in just the last two years eclipse even WG&L's payroll, Vansant said, which is roughly $14 million.
When asked by Albany Mayor Willie Adams, who by virtue of his office also serves as chairman of the WG&L Board, what was behind the fee increases, Vansant said he believes it is largely a combination of market factors like the cost of coal, increased environmental regulations that have driven up the cost of generating electricity, and Georgia Power, who owns the majority share of Georgia's power plants.
"Georgia Power tells MEAG how it's going to be," he said. "Georgia Power is making the decisions, they own the majority of the power plants and it's costing them more to generate power so they're passing that cost along."
In an attempt to temper the bad news, WG&L General Manager Lemuel Edwards reminded the board that the utilities rates were still on average less than most municipal utilities across the state and were 35 percent below those of Georgia Power.