Atlanta Tea Party targets Southern Co.
by Ray Henry, Associated Press
June 02, 2013 10:29 PM | 2185 views | 8 8 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Steam rises from the cooling towers at Plant Vogtle in Waynesboro. Atlanta Tea Party members say they will intensify efforts to challenge Southern Co. subsidiary Georgia Power over its reluctance to increase solar energy use and the ballooning costs of building a nuclear power plant southeast of Augusta.
Steam rises from the cooling towers at Plant Vogtle in Waynesboro. Atlanta Tea Party members say they will intensify efforts to challenge Southern Co. subsidiary Georgia Power over its reluctance to increase solar energy use and the ballooning costs of building a nuclear power plant southeast of Augusta.
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ATLANTA — The Southern Co. makes billion-dollar decisions that affect millions of people in Georgia, yet it has attracted little political scrutiny — until now.

Leaders of the Atlanta Tea Party are challenging Southern Co. subsidiary Georgia Power over the monopoly’s reluctance to increase its use of solar power, the ballooning costs of building a new nuclear power plant and even its legal right to monopoly status.

The group’s action in Georgia seems relatively rare among the loosely linked tea party organizations nationally.

Other tea party groups have condemned the adoption of “smart” utility meters — which transmit information about customer usage — due to concerns that they would intrude on customers’ privacy, or have broadly backed less reliance on foreign energy. But relatively few have endorsed so specific an energy platform in their own backyards, much less promised to campaign on it.

“It certainly isn’t anything personal, but one of our core values is promoting the free-market system,” said Julianne Thompson, a co-founder of the Atlanta Tea Party.

The electricity market in Georgia is not a free market. State law gives electric utilities, including Georgia Power, exclusive rights to serve customers in designated areas of the state. Most customers cannot choose their provider.

While monopolies have more power to charge higher prices than firms in competitive markets, there are times when it makes sense to allow them if their prices are regulated.

It would be more expensive to build more than one system of electric wires or natural gas pipelines to deliver power and fuel to every home in a state. Customers are better off if just one system is built and maintained, as long as the company that runs the system is prohibited by regulators from using its monopoly power to drive up prices.

In many states, including Texas and most of the Northeast, power delivery is regulated, but customers can choose who provides their electricity. Customers in those states can choose from companies that provide such options as renewable power or a slate of pricing options, including fixed rates, rates that vary with market fluctuations or rates that vary based on when during the day power is used.

Georgia Power makes a natural political foil for the tea party. A 2011 poll conducted by Yale University and George Mason University found that tea party members were far more likely than Democrats, Republicans or independents to distrust central authority and strongly opposed energy policies that raise costs, even if there are other benefits.

Yale University researcher Anthony Leiserowitz, who worked on the poll, said he was not surprised local tea party supporters might challenge a monopoly.

“That totally taps into that same sense that there are these big, institutional forces against which you’re a little guy and you need to rebel,” he said.

Utility officials say they welcome the involvement of tea party groups.

“We listen carefully to the concerns and ideas of the Tea Party, as well as all other organizations that represent the diverse opinions of Georgians,” company spokesman Jacob Hawkins said in a statement.

The tea party locally has proved successful at getting its supporters to pressure Georgia’s leaders into action. Thompson’s group was part of a coalition that leaned on reluctant Republicans to pass limits on Statehouse lobbying, and they are working on a voter identification and education project ahead of the 2014 elections to increase their clout and boost turnout.
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Carol h
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June 05, 2013
I cannot believe this issue coming up! Important, maybe? The liberals will love it! We have so many greater issues to deal with, why even bring this up. Education by our fed. Gov. Of out 4 year old children! Common Core! Freedom! Stopping illegal Amnesty, DIsolving the IRS! First and Second amendments. Truth about Bengasi.

Solar over Nuclear? Why? This is not an issue for your lifetime or mine. We have a country to save! If Solar is right, free enterprise will build and sell it!
Lone Conservative
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June 03, 2013
Sounds like Debbie Dooley and friends may be onto something here. They just may be able to do away with the Georgia Public Service Commission and all the antics associated with it. And, who knows, by pressing Georgia Power into a large scale commitment to solar power, they may come across a way for GP to become the first solar power utility to create profits without federal subsidies. All that extra money can be used to relieve ratepayers of the high costs of building the nukes.

On the other hand, maybe Debbie and her clan are simply looking for a device to split the Atlanta Tea Party into multiple factions: those who agree with them that the power utilities are incapable of running their companies for their shareholders, and those, like myself, who think the power companies know more about generating and distributing power than Debbie. Divide us up, Debbie and watch how a multi-factioned Tea Party movement will flop at the polls next year.
Lib in Cobb
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June 03, 2013
Tea Party, solar power, moving toward progressive thinking. Are we talking about the same Tea Party as in Michelle Bachmann Tea Party?
Say What?
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June 03, 2013
So a couple people get together and call themselves a tea party and suddenly they have clout. Guess they have Southern Company shaking in their boots. Dream On
I disagree
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June 03, 2013
These do-gooders need to leave the Southern Company alone. They are doing just fine and frankly, I think it is going down a slippery slope to try to get this company involved in trying to please a political group. Business is business. Just ask the stockholders.
Diamond Jim
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June 03, 2013
Oh yeah! Lets push for deregulation and competition, just like we did for natural gas here in Georgia. How did that work out for ya?? Georgia has some of the highest natural gas costs in the nation, thanks to the ill-conceived ham-fisted plan our legislators put in place. My gas bill last month was $43.00, but only $14.00 was actually for gas. The rest was taxes and "fees" to Atlanta Gas Light and my provider.

yoo wait
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June 03, 2013
In Kuwait the citizens are paid from the wild oil revenues just for being alive. Here in Georgia we have been forced to fund the Southern Company's expansion all over the world throughout South America and Africa via their monopoly revenue tool Georgia Power, and yet our bills are higher than ever. Since we funded the expansion of Southern Company into the OPEC of Electricity, my questions are: Why don't we all get our power for free by now? Why doesn't South America pay for our new nuclear plants (or ARE they perhaps being charged for our plants? who would tell us about it?) Why is electricity a monopoly when gas was "deregulated"? Why was gas "deregulated" anyway? That is nothing but a huge scam when the gas all still comes from a monopoly provider (AGL)? How is Georgia "pro-business" when it slants toward business so much that nobody capable of rational thought is willing to live here and be subject to all this?

Someday Southern Company will pay us to live here like Kuwait pays its citizens. Just You Wait. Maybe after Dahlberg finally kicks the bucket and we don't have to pay for the lifestyle to which he became accustomed... on our backs.
Say What?
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June 03, 2013
Wow, all of that from a $150 electric bill. Just have your electricity turned off. Why are enabling them by buying their product?? The pioneers used wood. Give that a go and break their monoply. I will call the Georgia Power Office in Africa to get their side of the story
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