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Sawnee Electric plans to reduce rates, not so for Georgia Power or Jackson EMC
Jessie Reese with Sawnee Electric Membership Corp. installs insulators last week on a new pole near Doctor Bramblett Road in northern Forsyth County. A reduction in the costs for the utility to generate power will result in lower rates for customers, beginning Tuesday. - photo by Jim Dean

When Sawnee Electric Membership Corp. customers open their next power bills, they may be in for a big surprise — lower rates.

Beginning Tuesday, Sawnee customers will notice that the Wholesale Power Cost Adjustment, used to determine electricity bill prices, has been cut in half.

"The costs we are seeing for electricity are down due to decreases in the price of the fuels used to generate it and we are proud to be able to pass these savings on to our members by lowering their rates while not impacting the overall financial health of the organization," Michael A. Goodroe, Sawnee president and CEO, said in a statement.

The rate change will impact the bills of residential and most commercial accounts, according to Sawnee officials.

"This has been a very hard summer for us all, and after such a challenging financial year, it is nice to be able to assist our members and show them we care by offering lower rates," said Blake House, Sawnee vice president of member services. "Lowering the (Wholesale Power Cost Adjustment) is one way we can assist our members in reducing their monthly energy bill."

Sawnee serves more than 147,000 customers in seven counties including Hall, Dawson, Lumpkin and
Forsyth. Customers can expect to see the adjusted Wholesale Power Cost Adjustment rates for the remainder of the year, say Sawnee officials.

While lower production costs will lower the electricity bills for Sawnee customers, Jackson EMC and Georgia Power customers won’t see the same changes.

"We’re under long-term power contracts, which eliminates peaks and valleys, so this is a non-event for us," said Bonnie Jones, Jackson EMC spokesperson.

For the time being, Georgia Power customers’ billing rates will also remain the same.

"We’ve postponed our rate change until December," said Carol Boatright, Georgia Power spokesperson. "This means that there won’t be a change in our customer’s rates at this time."

In December, Georgia Power officials will review and vote on proposed rate changes. At that time, customers’ bills could increase or decrease.

Fuels like coal and natural gas are used to produce electricity and changes in the cost of those fuels can drive the cost of electricity up or down. The cost for the fuels is influenced by both supply levels and demand.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, currently the cost of natural gas has declined due to lowered demand, allowing the natural gas industry to be more competitive with the coal industry. While coal prices have gone down, energy officials report that the cost is expected to increase sometime this year, which could have an impact on electricity prices.