By RAY HENRY, Associated Press
Georgia Power would accept a lower return on shareholder investments and ditch a proposal to charge special rates for rooftop solar power under a preliminary agreement reached Monday.
The Southern Co. subsidiary reached a tentative deal with Georgia utility regulators to set its rates through 2016. It would reduce the value of the rate increases sought by the utility by more than $500 million over a three-year period, according to regulatory filings. The agreement must still be approved by the elected members of the Public Service Commission, though they typically ratify such deals.
Utility shareholders who invest money in the electrical grid would get a lower return on their investments. The return would drop to 10.95 percent from the current 11.15 percent. Georgia Power originally wanted an 11.5 percent return on its shareholder investments.
“The terms reached do give us the flexibility to manage our business by taking care of customers and meeting shareholder expectations,” said John Kraft, a spokesman for Georgia Power.
Georgia Power also agreed to drop new fees it had proposed charging customers who use solar energy systems on their homes and businesses. Utility officials had said that solar power customers were not paying for their fair share of the costs of running the electrical grid even though solar customers still need power from the utility.
Georgia Power originally wanted solar customers who install new systems starting new year to pay a special fee or buy power at rates that the utility said better recoups it costs.
Under the plan, utility officials say they may seek to revisit the solar charges at a later time.
“This is a real victory for individuals and businesses that want to use technology to regain some control over their energy bills,” said Jason Rooks, a lobbyist for the Georgia Solar Energy Industries Association, which opposed the new charges.