ATLANTA - Georgia’s utility regulating board voted Tuesday to extend the suspension of service disconnections Georgia Power Co. began last month in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The state Public Service Commission (PSC) unanimously passed a resolution continuing the suspension of disconnections for non-payment of customer bills “due to the continued uncertainty surrounding the duration of [the] COVID-19 response.”
Customers won’t be cut off until the PSC decides to terminate the suspension of disconnections, subject to input from Georgia Power.
“There’s nothing more important right now than making sure everybody has electricity in their home,” commission Chairman Chuck Eaton said before Tuesday’s vote. “We need to be encouraging people to use their homes.”
“We recognize the extraordinary burden the COVID-19 pandemic has put upon our state and our customers,” added Paul Bowers, chairman, president and CEO of Georgia Power. “We commend the commissioners for their vote to extend the disconnect suspension and allow for special customer payment provisions.
“It is going to take all of us continuing to think about how we can support each other to see our communities through this uncertain time.”
The Atlanta-based utility suspended service disconnections on March 14 as the coronavirus crisis was beginning to take hold on Georgia, with businesses significantly reducing their operations or shutting down entirely, resulting in massive worker layoffs.
Cities and counties across the state began ordering residents to stay home unless they needed to shop for groceries or medicines or needed to go to essential jobs they couldn’t perform at home. Those local orders were subsequently superseded by the statewide shelter-in-place order Gov. Brian Kemp imposed late last week.
While the PSC resolution authorizes Georgia Power to dip into its storm damage reserves to help offset the costs of suspending service disconnections, it also acknowledges that won’t be enough to cover all of the financial impact the pandemic ultimately will have on the utility.
Under the resolution, the period during which Georgia Power will be allowed to recover those costs will be determined in the company’s next rate case.
The commission approved a rate increase last December that will raise the average Georgia Power residential customer’s bill by $168 per year.
By Dave Williams
Capitol Beat News Service