How Does the Commission Decide a Rate Case?

The Utility Files Its Petition

The utility requesting a rate increase first serves a public notice of intent. It then files a rate case petition with all supporting data, including a request for the proposed rates to take effect in 30 days. The Commission studies the utility's petition and sets a hearing date.

PSC Studies the Petition

By law, the proposed new rates go into effect 30 days from the filing date, unless the commissioners vote to suspend them. Normally, the commissioners order a five-month suspension of the proposed rate so staff can study all data submitted by the utility. The utility publishes a notice of hearings in newspapers of general circulation in its service area. This is done 30 to 60 days after the filing. The PSC issues a scheduling order, available on this website, and may hold a pre-hearing conference with all interested parties. The Commission staff can request any additional information it needs on the rate request, and the utility provides it.

During a rate case, the Commission's Public Interest Advocacy Staff (PIA), considered separate from the Commissioners, essentially prosecutes the case, usually opposing the utility's rate request. The PIA staff's attorney cross-examines utility witnesses. At the same time, a separate PSC Advisory Staff provides support to the Commissioners and answers their questions.

Interested Parties Intervene

For 30 days following the first published notice of the proceedings, requests to intervene are considered by the Commission. The Commission grants the requests either at the pre-hearing conference or on the first day of the hearing. The intervenors can request information from the utility, which the utility must provide. The Commission Public Interest Advisory Staff and other intervenors begin their investigations. PIA staff activities may include hiring consultants, taking depositions from witnesses, limited auditing of selected utility records and gathering other data.

Formal Rate Hearings Conducted

The utility presents its case at a public hearing conducted by the Commissioners within 90 to 120 days after the initial filing. These hearings generally last from three to five days. All witnesses are subject to cross-examination by the Commission's PIA staff and other intervenors.

Public witnesses can present any comment on the rate case during the first hour of each hearing day, or via emailed submission.

The PIA staff completes its review and develops the Commission position on various elements in the case. Both the PIA staff and intervenors pre-file testimony and exhibits.

The PIA staff does not take an official position until it is ready to pre-file its own testimony. The PIA staff makes an independent recommendation on rates 10 days before the hearing date.

A second set of public hearings, 120 to 165 days after the initial filing, is held for the staff and other Intervenors to present their case and to be cross-examined by the utility.

The utility files rebuttal testimony 10 days before a third set of public hearings. At those hearings, the utility presents its rebuttal to the staff's and other intervenors' findings.

This set of public hearings is held 160 to 165 days after the initial filing. During this set of hearings, the Commission PIA Staff and other intervenors cross-examine the utility.

Commission Issues Rate Order

The Commissioners take the case under advisement following the third set of public hearings. All parties involved -- the utility, Commissioners, Commission Staff, and intervenors -- review the transcript and records of the hearings and file recommendations, a proposed order, briefs, etc.

At a subsequent administrative session, held the first and third Tuesday of each month, or at a special called meeting, the commissioners decide what, if any, rate increases to grant and when the utility can put the new rates into effect. The Commissioners must make this decision within six months of the original filing date or the utility is legally entitled to 100 percent of its request, under bond and subject to refund.

After a decision on the rate case, the five elected Commissioners hold a public vote and issue a final order. The new rates go into effect 165 to 180 days after the initial filing of the rate change request. The utility may ask the Commission to reconsider its decision within 10 days after the order and may appeal the Commission's decision to the Fulton County Superior Court within 30 days after the final order. Also, the intervenors may request a rehearing and/or appeal the Commission's decision to the courts.

Commission Responsibility

In making its decisions, the Georgia Public Service Commission has a duty to balance the service needs of Georgia's residents with the financial needs of the utility. The U.S. Supreme Court has determined that rates must permit the utility to earn a return comparable to that of enterprises involving similar risk, to preserve the financial integrity of the company and to allow the company to attract investors.

The Georgia Public Service Commission requires regulated utilities to provide adequate service at fair and reasonable rates and to treat all customers equitably.