ATLANTA — Georgia’s energy regulating board voted narrowly Tuesday, July 7, to let Georgia Power Co. recover from customers $7.7 million in costs associated with its response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The state Public Service Commission signed off on the Atlanta-based utility’s request 3-2 despite a recommendation from the agency’s staff to deny the proposal.
Georgia Power submitted the request to cover expenses in March, April and May due to COVID-19, including cleaning supplies and services, personal protective equipment, employee overtime and meal vouchers for front-line workers.
“These costs are necessary to protect our workers who maintain the reliability of electric service essential to our local communities and state through this pandemic,” Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft said. “Similar to storm cost recovery, these pandemic-related costs will be deferred for consideration in the company’s 2022 base rate case.”
“Few things are more vital to society than electricity,” commission Chairman Chuck Eaton said following Tuesday’s (July 7) vote. “From keeping our hospitals open to the food supply intact, our focus during the pandemic has been Georgia’s electricity. The vote today ensures Georgia Power will have the medical technology and resources available for its frontline workers to prevent COVID-19 power blackouts.”
Eaton joined commissioners Tim Echols and Tricia Pridemore in supporting Georgia Power’s request.
Commissioners Lauren “Bubba” McDonald and Jason Shaw voted against it based on the PSC staff’s assertion that the utility shouldn’t be entitled to the money.
Rob Trokey, director of the commission’s Electric Unit, told commissioners Georgia Power realized some savings because of COVID-19 as well as higher costs and failed to demonstrate that its costs exceeded those savings.
He also argued that the effects of the pandemic on Georgia Power should be weighed against its impact on its residential and business customers.
“Burdening customers with additional costs that have not been adequately demonstrated, staff doesn’t believe is justified,” Trokey said.
The largest portion of Georgia Power’s costs related to coronavirus – nearly $4.1 million — came in April. The utility’s COVID-related expenses in May fell to $3.3 million.