Consumers deserve a voice in the energy debate

Georgia Watch has written a formal letter of concern to Joseph B. Doyle, Administrator of the Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs (GOCA). Georgia Watch believes that, as GOCA’s Administrator, it is in Mr. Doyle’s power to intervene in utility rate cases and other critical cases heard before the Public Service Commission (PSC) that impact consumers’ wallets. He has made no such intervention to date and, as a result, the interests of the average Georgia consumer have gone unrepresented.

A branch of GOCA, the Consumers’ Utility Counsel (CUC) was charged with protecting consumer interests in energy and utility matters heard before the PSC. Since its defunding in September 2008, the statutory position of CUC Director has gone unfilled. Doyle, as the Administrator of GOCA, is charged with the authority to appoint and remove the CUC Director (pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 46-10-3). Therefore, Georgia Watch believes he possesses both the authority and the duty to intervene, in the absence of a CUC Director, in cases that will financially impact Georgia ratepayers.

“Billions of dollars are on the line here and Georgians can’t continue to be under-represented in cases that will have significant impact on their pocketbooks, especially in these economic times.” Georgia Watch Executive Director Angela Speir Phelps said. “Georgia Watch would specifically like to see Mr. Doyle intervene in the Georgia Power IRP, the Atlanta Gas Light Company rate case and the Georgia Power rate case. Without such representation, the power of utilities is more likely to go unchecked and the average consumer is even more likely to see an increase in their monthly bills.”

The Georgia state legislature expressly acknowledged and codified the need of consumer representation in O.C.G.A. § 46-10-1, which states, “It is further recognized that the citizens of Georgia should receive adequate utility services at the lowest reasonable cost to the consumer while maintaining the ability of public utilities to furnish their products and services.” In the same vein, the legislature recognized that, in order for consumers to be adequately represented before the Commission, “…the commission must be furnished with all available information concerning the effects of its decisions in rate cases and proceedings before it.