I want to explain why energy equity is so important to me personally and a pillar of this campaign.
Let’s define it. In a recent report, energy equity is defined as the fair distribution of the benefits and burdens of the ways we produce and consume energy. In practice, this means reducing mounting energy costs to ensure that families are able to meet their basic needs, making homes and communities healthier for all by increasing access to energy efficiency and clean energy, and ensuring that decision-making around energy policy is more reflective of the needs of all communities.
A lot of great organizations work to educate folks across the state on energy equity, but we need to do more – faster.
This story illustrates why energy equity is so important.
Every penny counts
I sat down with a former constituent of mine who shared with me the burden of the Nuclear Construction Cost Recovery (NCCR) charge on her Georgia Power bill. She’s on a fixed income but is required to pay the Plant Vogtle nuclear rider on her bill. The bill we looked at was a $7 extra premium. What she couldn’t see was the extra sales tax and “franchise fee” that nets out to 10.8% more. And this is true for Municipal utilities and local EMC’s too, they just don’t break it out on their bill. When you are retired, on a fixed-income, or low income, it whole means a lot. Now after the Public Service Commission (PSC) hearings just concluded this November she learned she’s going to have to pay even more.
What this hearing revealed was that the NCCR charge will go from 9 to 12%.
There is no reason our seniors on fixed incomes should have to pay for a nuclear plant they may never see finished let alone get little benefit from. And when (and if) the new reactors come on line they’ll push electric rates up another 10.5%, this from GA Power’s own analyst’s estimate (though others say much higher). Municipal and EMC utility ratepayers, you’re not off the hook, it’s true for you too. We’ve been at this now for six years. The plants were supposed to have been completed, on line and producing power. Instead we’re 38% done, the budget has doubled and it’ll be another 6 years. Or so they say…
Adding insult to injury, some industrial and commercial rate payers in the state don’t have to pay for Plant Vogtle. They’re on a different deal. What’s equitable about that? All fixed income folks and ratepayers should get a pass too.
It’s about equity.
For years, the story in our state about electric rates is “We can’t raise rates because it will affect the poor people of the state.” Surprise! It’s a smoke screen. According to a 2017 WalletHub study, Georgia ranked 8th in the country of states with the highest electric bills. Not the phony baloney you hear about how “low” our electric “rates” are. When you factor in Fuel Cost Recovery, other line items and the Nuclear Construction burden – what you actually pay – our bills average $152 a month in Georgia. 8th highest in the US. Fun fact, we’re right behind high cost northeastern states Delaware and Connecticut but trailing (so far) South Carolina, now saddled with billions of its own nuclear mess. For the poor, widespread lack of energy efficiency and energy saving solutions in homes cause higher bills relative to home size than other income levels.
We have a moral obligation to care for those who have less than us. We can’t let falsehoods and lack of leadership to understand these problems be business as usual. Join me in a commitment to A New Energy in Georgia.
[John Noel is a former State House legislator and candidate for the statewide office of Public Service Commissioner. He is founder of Energy + Environment, an energy efficiency company and has been in the energy efficiency trade for 20 years.]