Marietta to take up BLW measure lowering rates to large businesses
by Nikki Wiley
March 12, 2014 04:00 AM | 2235 views | 0 0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — Marietta’s city-owned utility is planning to offer discounted rates to big businesses in an attempt to stay competitive with other power providers.

The Marietta Board of Lights and Water approved at its Monday meeting a new economic development rate structure that offers lower costs to larger corporate users.

The new rate plan goes before City Council for final approval tonight at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 205 Lawrence St.

The state granted exclusive franchise areas to the state’s 94 electric utilities under the 1973 Georgia Territorial Electric Service Act, but there are some exceptions that allow new business customers to pick their own power providers.

Residential customers are typically forced to use the provider that services their area.

But businesses that are outside the city limits of Marietta and use more than 900 kilowatts can shop around for utilities by soliciting bids for the lowest rates. Companies can then choose to go with the lowest-cost provider.

Rates included in bids will be determined by an analysis of the cost of providing power to the customer and the revenue to be received, said City Manager Bill Bruton, who is also the interim general manager of the BLW.

“It will also be a tool to encourage new businesses to locate in and around Marietta, which promotes overall economic development and job creation,” Bruton said.

The new rate lets Marietta Power be more competitive against rival electric utilities Georgia Power and Cobb Electric Membership Corp.

“We might want to go after the Brave’s stadium,” said Mayor Steve Tumlin, who also chairs the BLW, with a laugh, referring to the stadium to be built in Cumberland and opened by the spring of 2017.

Marietta Power services the city and some other areas in Cobb extending to Barrett Parkway and the Cobb Galleria Centre.

“We already have lines out there so we will be able to compete,” Tumlin said.

After months of talk about how much to hike rates for power customers, if at all, the BLW and City Council opted not to increase fees or rates for Marietta Power customers.

Members of the committee responsible for making rate recommendations to the city-owned Marietta Board of Lights and Water unanimously agreed in January it should absorb a $5 million deficit without passing on rising electricity costs to customers. That committee recommended the city reduce its transfer, which was $11.5 million last year, by $750,000. The rest of the cash needed to avoid a rate hike would come from the BLW’s $10 million rainy day reserve fund.

Former BLW manager Bob Lewis attributed the utility’s budgetary woes to rising costs from its power wholesaler, the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia. Lewis recently retired.

Council approved in December raising water rates by 40 cents a month, or $4.80 a year, effective at the beginning of this year.

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