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Georgia Power rate increases approved

The basic cost of living for most Bainbridge residents will bump up come January, as Georgia utility regulators approved a 10 percent rate increase for Georgia Power customers on Tuesday.

Bills for the average residential customer using about 1,000 kilowatt hours per month will increase by about 10 percent, or about $10.76 a month, for a period of three years, according to the Reuters news agency.

The rate hike will allow Georgia Power to recover funds already spent on environmental controls, infrastructure upgrades, and the replacement of two coal-fueled power generators near Smyrna, Ga., with three new natural gas fired units.

In addition to the rate increases, Georgia Power will also add a nuclear power surcharge to customers’ bills in January to recover financing costs on funds borrowed for the construction of two new nuclear power reactors at Plant Vogtle, located near Augusta, Ga. The nuclear rider will add an additional $3.73 a month to the average residential bill for a total recovery of $218 million in 2011, according to Reuters. It will boost residential bills by $1.44 a month or $91 million in 2012, and $1.50 a month or $97 million in 2013.

The new nuclear reactors will cost Georgia Power about $6.1 billion for its 47.7 percent stake in the project.

Both rate increases were approved by the Georgia Public Service Commission. Southern Company, the parent company of Georgia Power, had filed a rate increase request with the Public Service Commission in July; the commission held several public hearings around the state while it considered the request.

Several consumer advocacy groups, including the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and Georgia Watch voiced concerns about the adverse affect the rate increases could have on senior citizens and others who depend upon Georgia Power’s electricity.

The AARP called the rate increases “unfair” and “lop-sided” and both it and Georgia Watch submitted alternative rate increase proposals.

However, Georgia Power contended the rate increases would “allow the company to continue to provide reliable and cost-effective service.” According to Georgia Power, its rates have historically been below the national average.