Timeline: The Georgia Public Service Commission’s key decisions  

This is part of a collaboration with Grist and WABE to demystify the Georgia Public Service Commission, the small but powerful state-elected board that makes critical decisions about everything from raising electricity bills to developing renewable energy.  

The Georgia Public Service Commission, or PSC, votes on energy issues multiple times a year, making decisions for the state on everything from rate hikes and solar metering to Georgia Power bill increases and nuclear plant construction.

Here’s a timeline of the past 15 years of major events and elections so you have the information you need to understand what the PSC does and how it affects you. (Curious how to get in front of the PSC or submit written comments? We have a guide here.)

November 2024: No PSC elections on the ballot

Commissioner Tricia Pridemore’s term expires at the end of the year, but she will not be on the ballot. A new state law adds an extra two years to the Republican commissioners’ six-year terms. The law is in response to a lawsuit alleging Georgia’s statewide PSC election system violates the Voting Rights Act, which had put elections on hold since 2022. 

June 2024: SCOTUS rejects Black voters’ lawsuit over PSC elections

The U.S. Supreme Court declines to take up a case challenging how Georgia elects the PSC, clearing the way for delayed elections to resume in 2025. This means that the PSC elections can proceed based on the schedule outlined in a new Georgia law, barring a challenge from the plaintiffs (which they said they are considering).

Spring 2024: Rate hike for Plant Vogtle Unit 4 begins

Georgia Power rates increase by just under $9 for the typical customer as the second of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle, Unit 4, comes online in April, completing some 14 years of construction. (Unit 3 went online in 2023.) The PSC approved the rate increase in December 2023. 

April 2024: PSC approves Georgia Power gas plant plan

The PSC approves a Georgia Power plan to increase generating capacity by contracting with a natural gas plant in Pace, Florida, and Mississippi Power Co., a Southern Company corporate sibling. The PSC also will allow Georgia Power to build three new combustion turbines at Plant Yates near Newnan that could burn natural gas or oil. 

April 2024: Law instated to further postpone PSC elections

Under a bill signed by Gov. Brian Kemp laying out a new schedule for PSC elections, two commissioners who were supposed to run in 2022 — Fitz Johnson and Tim Echols — will serve until 2025. To stagger the commissioners’ terms, the other three — Tricia Pridemore, Jason Shaw, and Lauren “Bubba” McDonald — will have terms extended to eight years versus the six authorized under current state statute. The bill passed in anticipation that the courts would allow elections to resume under the existing system. 

March 2024: PSC election lawsuit appealed to U.S. Supreme Court

The Black Atlanta voters who sued over Georgia’s PSC election system appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, hoping the court will take up the case and overturn the decision that Georgia can keep holding statewide elections for the PSC. 

Your guide to the Georgia PSCGrist and WABE are collaborating to demystify the Georgia Public Service Commission through ongoing reporting, community workshops, printable resources, and local journalism training. Explore more PSC coverage, including a glossary of terms to know and downloadable fact sheets. Share your thoughts: Tell us what you want to know about energy affordability and utility regulation in Georgia.

February 2024: Legislators try to revive Consumer Utility Counsel

Two Georgia House and Senate committees back proposals that would revive the Consumer’s Utility Counsel to represent the public on utility issues before the PSC and federally. The Consumer’s Utility Counsel operated from 1975 until 2008, when it was defunded in the 2009 budget.

November 2023: Court reverses PSC election lawsuit decision 

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rules that Georgia can keep its system of statewide elections for PSC commissioner seats, overturning the lower court’s decision that the way the PSC is elected violates the Voting Rights Act.

May 2023: PSC approves bill increase to recoup fuel costs

The PSC unanimously approves Georgia Power’s plan to recover $2.1 billion in under-budgeted costs for coal and natural gas by charging customers an average of $16 more a month over three years. 

December 2022: PSC approves Georgia Power rate hike 

The PSC approves a $1.8 billion Georgia Power rate increase — down from the company’s request of $2.9 billion — which will raise the typical residential bill by $3.60 per month starting in January 2023. 

December 2022: PSC rejects net metering expansion

The PSC votes to keep Georgia Power’s cap that restricts net metering — which allows those with rooftop solar to receive bill credits for excess electricity they generate — to only 5,000 customers, despite the popularity of the program. The PSC also approves a $100 connection fee for rooftop solar customers (half of the fee Georgia Power proposed). 

November 2022: No PSC elections held 

Commissioners Fitz Johnson and Tim Echols should be up for reelection, but they are not on the ballot due to the lawsuit still working its way through the courts; they will continue to serve in the meantime. In 2024, a law passed that staggers commissioners’ elections, so they will both be up for reelection in 2025. 

August 2022: Judge suspends PSC elections

In his ruling on the case alleging Georgia’s statewide PSC election system violates the Voting Rights Act, a federal judge postpones PSC elections, preventing the secretary of state from preparing ballots for districts 2 and 3 until the state legislature can devise a new system that is more representative of Black voters. 

March 2022: Georgia redraws PSC districts 

The Georgia General Assembly votes to approve new PSC districts as part of larger redistricting in the state, and the bill is signed into law. It moves 41 counties from PSC District 2 to District 4. According to text messages obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, commissioners Tricia Pridemore and Tim Echols “discussed trading counties between districts and state lawmakers’ intentions to keep two Republican-controlled PSC seats safe.” 

July 2021: Fitz Johnson appointed to PSC

Governor Brian Kemp appoints Republican Fitz Johnson to serve as the District 3 commissioner, filling a vacancy. Johnson is supposed to fill the position for one year until the 2022 elections, which were canceled because of the lawsuit over the PSC statewide election system. Under a 2024 law rescheduling PSC elections, Johnson will be up for reelection in 2025.  

July 2020: Black voters sue Georgia over PSC elections

A group of Black voters in Atlanta sue Georgia’s secretary of state, alleging that the way the PSC is elected diminishes Black residents’ votes. Each of Georgia’s public service commissioners has to live in a specific district, but, unlike members of Congress, they’re elected by statewide vote. The lawsuit argues this system violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, because it dilutes their votes, preventing them from sending the candidate of their choice to the commission.

July 2020: PSC allows Georgia Power to recoup COVID-19 pandemic costs

In a close vote, the PSC allows Georgia Power to charge customers for expenses incurred by the utility during the pandemic — including personal protective gear, extra cleaning services, and overtime and meals for the company’s frontline essential workers — which totaled $7.7 million for March, April, and May. 

December 2019: PSC approves rate hike

The PSC votes to raise Georgia Power customer rates by about $1.8 billion over three years — less than the $2.2 billion the company had originally requested. A sticking point in the discussions was how much Georgia Power can earn in profit. The PSC reduced the company’s allowed return on equity but left its maximum profit margin technically unchanged at 12 percent. 

2019: PSC approves solar net metering

The PSC unanimously passes a motion to require Georgia Power to launch a net metering pilot program that allows for 5,000 rooftop solar customers, or 32 MW of capacity, whichever comes first. Through this Solar Buy Back program, participants connected to the grid and generating electricity via rooftop solar can sell their excess electricity back to Georgia Power for bill credits. The slots fill up quickly.

January 2019: Governor appoints Jason Shaw

Governor Brian Kemp appoints Jason Shaw to represent District 1. Shaw is a Republican from Lakeland. He is later elected as an incumbent in 2020, and as of 2024 serves as the commission’s chairman. His term ends December 31, 2026, but under a 2024 law his election is rescheduled for 2028.

February 2018: Governor appoints Tricia Pridemore

Tricia Pridemore, a Republican from Marietta, is appointed by then-Governor Nathan Deal as District 5 commissioner to fill a vacant seat. She is later elected as an incumbent in the November 2018 elections. Her term runs through December 31, 2024, but under a 2024 law, her rescheduled election will be in 2027.

December 2017: PSC votes to continue Vogtle construction after contractor bankruptcy

The PSC votes unanimously to continue construction of two additional nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle, which is billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule. Construction had halted when the contractor that was supposed to build the reactors, the Westinghouse Electric subsidiary of Toshiba, went bankrupt. Georgia Power wanted $8.9 billion to complete the project, but the PSC lowered that by $1.7 billion. 

July 2016: Southern Company merges with AGL Resources

Georgia Power agrees not to request rate increases for three years in order to gain PSC approval for a merger of Southern Company, which owns Georgia Power, and natural gas company AGL Resources, the parent company of natural gas utility Atlanta Gas Light. 

July 2016: PSC approves adding more carbon-free sources to Georgia Power’s energy mix

The latest Integrated Resource Plan, or IRP, Georgia Power’s long-range energy plan, is approved by the PSC. The plan increases Georgia Power’s Renewable Energy Development Initiative to procure 1,200 MW of renewables, focused largely on growing solar capacity. In 2013, Georgia had less than 300 MW of solar, and in the 2013 IRP, the commission added 525 MW of solar. 

November 2014: Lauren “Bubba” McDonald re-elected to PSC

McDonald, a Republican from Clarksville, was appointed to fill a vacancy in 1998 and reelected in 2008 after losing his seat for one term in 2002. He is reelected in 2014, and again in 2020. As District 4 commissioner, McDonald’s term runs through December 31, 2026, but under a 2024 law he will remain in office until 2028. 

Fall 2012: Georgia Power launches solar initiative

Georgia Power launches its Advanced Solar Initiative to procure up to 210 megawatts of solar through utility and residential projects. The PSC approves this plan.

November 2010: Tim Echols elected to PSC

Tim Echols, a Republican from Clayton County, is elected to the PSC representing District 2. Echols was reelected in 2016 and was supposed to serve through December 31, 2022. That year’s election was canceled due to a lawsuit over how the commissioners are elected, and he will remain in office until 2025. As of 2024, he is vice chairman of the commission.

April 2009: Governor signs Georgia Nuclear Energy Financing Act

After the PSC greenlights construction on two new nuclear reactors, Governor Sonny Perdue signs a law allowing Georgia Power to make customers pay for some of the construction. The PSC approves a plan for this cost recovery, which saves the company $300 million. The first two reactors have been online since 1989, and the PSC approved construction for the additional two in 2007. 

2009: Consumer’s Utility Counsel is defunded

The Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs defunds the Consumer’s Utility Counsel in the 2009 budget, as part of state budget cuts. The counsel, which advocated for the public in front of the PSC, had operated since 1975.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Timeline: The Georgia Public Service Commission’s key decisions   on Jul 11, 2024.

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