ALBANY, Ga. — Small “mom and pop” businesses and other non-residential establishments that use relatively small amounts of electricity can expect a rate increase of around $18 a month next year if guidelines recommended by the Electric Cities of Georgia are adopted by the city of Albany’s Water, Gas & Light Commission.
ECG Manager of Pricing and Sales John Lansing told the WG&L board at its monthly meeting Thursday that a new rate structure will be needed by WG&L to pay for federally mandated Environmental Compliance Cost Recovery, due mostly to environmental concerns surrounding the use of coal to generate electricity.
Lansing told the board the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia, of which WG&L is a member, gets 34.39 percent of its power from coal. The majority of the authority’s power is generated by non-polluting nuclear (52.5 percent) and hydro (8.41) sources.
“Of your total debt service (which Fiscal Affairs Director John Vansant said is $80 million), $8,940,000 will come from environmental cost recovery,” Lansing said. “That’s more than 10 percent. Of your cost of 7.73 cents per kilowatt hour, 1.53 cents is anti-pollution costs.
“Our recommendation is not a way to make money, but a revenue-nuetral means to account for these costs.”
The Electric Cities of Georgia recommendations for residential WG&L customers and large businesses in the city offer better news. Under ECG’s plan, residential customers’ and larger consumers’ rates would remain virtually the same, rising slightly in the summer and falling back in the winter.
“What’s been happening is your very best customers — the larger businesses — and to some degree your residential customers have been paying for the small businesses,” Lansing said. “The idea is to make (costs) more equitable.”
Vansant, who said he would recommend that any rate changes approved by the board not be enacted until March, noted that even with the recommended increase for smaller businesses, their rates would still be “substantially lower than Georgia Power’s.”
Also at the meeting, the board voted to raise the fine for tampering with WG&L electric, water and gas meters. Senior Investigator David Atkins recommended fines of $50 for tampering with water meters and $200 for tampering with gas and electric meters.
Board member Bob Hutchinson asked that fines be raised even higher.
“We should put some teeth into the criminal aspect of this problem,” he said. “The public needs to know that if they mess with these meters, they’re going to be penalized. We’re talking about something that could lead to houses being burned down or people losing their lives.”
Atkins, who asked that the board approve a measure that “will hurt enough so they won’t do it,” said the current fine for any meter tampering is only $25. He said he and two other criminal investigators had turned up around 40 cases of tampering this year alone.
The board voted to OK the increases suggested by Atkins and to include information in monthly bills that informed customers that, in addition to the WG&L fines, criminal fines of up to $1,000 and jail time could result from tampering.