ICYMI: Amid Soaring Utility Prices, Georgia Environmental Justice Leaders Call out Greed Fueling Energy Crisis
Energy Justice and Affordability are Top of Mind for Atlanta Voters ahead of November Midterms
ATLANTA, Ga. – On Saturday, October 15th, Girl Plus Environment and Climate Power hosted a panel session featuring Black women in the climate and energy justice sector to share more about their work and the importance of Black women engaging in energy justice. The panelists will highlight how Georgia Power’s price hikes, driven by corporate greed, are harming Georgians, especially Black and Brown folks and lower-income families.
This discussion came as a new federal report predicts home heating prices to reach new highs this winter, with electricity expected to rise 10% and heating oil and gas facing 27% and 28% increases, respectively. These rising prices are the result of several factors, chief among them corporate greed and the inherent volatility of fossil fuel markets. Georgians already feeling the strain of increasing costs are bracing for yet another hike as Georgia Power seeks to increase household utility bills by 11.4% over the next three years.
- This move would prioritize shareholder value over consumer well-being, with the proposed rate hike putting additional strain on Black, Brown, and low-income communities who already face a high household energy burden.
- Georgia Power’s proposed rate hike would result in about $2.8 billion in new revenue over the next three years by increasing the average customer’s monthly residential bills by $14.32 a month.
- Although Georgia Power claims the rate hike is necessary to meet their long-term generation plans, including investment in solar and natural gas, the proposal includes a request to raise the return on equity investments from 10.5% to 11%, a change that would solely benefit wealthy Southern Co. shareholders.
- Notably, Georgia Power is the largest subsidiary of Southern Co.
Highlights from the event are below:
Kyra Stephenson-Valley, Advisor and Director for Strategic Partnerships at Climate Power spoke about how her civil rights work drove her to the climate and environmental justice space. She spoke about how the greed driving soaring energy prices as well as the climate crisis fueled by dependence on fossil fuels disproportionately hurt the Black community.
Stephenson-Valley noted: “This isn’t new – we’ve known for a long time that Georgians have struggled with their energy costs. We always talk about gas prices, […] not letting the AC run during the summer even though we’ve had a couple heat advisories. […] We know that when America sneezes, Black America catches a cold – none of this is new. I think what is kind of new, and what we are kind of starting to know, is the role our dependence on fossil fuels plays in our costs – the direct effect they have on our pocketbooks. And how oil and gas CEOs, industry leaders, and their stakeholders are going to exploit us every chance they get. [There] is a real transfer of wealth out of our communities to them.”
Maggie Kelley Riggins, Senior Program Manager at Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance, spoked about how growing up in an energy insecure home drove her to pursue a career in energy justice so that others wouldn’t face the same challenges. Riggens discussed her desire to “help people live better lives and to not have to think about things like energy bills, like plumbing, like HVAC – those are the things that I don’t want people to have to have to think about. […] I get to make that a reality. I get to shape programs, policies, workforce development trainings, etc so that we don’t have to think about our energy bill and we can put it on autopay because it’s going to be about the same every month.”
Chandra Farley, Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of Atlanta and Founder of The Good Energy Project highlighted what drove her to found The Good Energy project, noting a desire to “connect more Black women to the movement for clean energy. […] We’re talking about making sure we know about our utility bills and making sure we know that when we flip on that light switch that there are people who are sometimes elected making decisions about where that energy comes from and how much it costs. Here in Georgia those people are elected. My passion is really around how we’re activating our power – we’re the most dependable voting bloc, we’re the most educated, we start the most businesses, and there are so many opportunities related to energy.