ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) -- Georgia Power executives have begun their first day of hearings for proposed rate hikes.

The company is proposing a rate increase of nearly $10 per month for customers.

The Georgia Public Service Commission is listening to the company present data and testimony explaining why it needs to increase rates. The commission will decide if the company’s suggested rate increase is warranted. In a June release the company said it had $18 million in recent and future investments.

In the hearing one executive said, “our rates are currently 16% below the national average; it seems pretty fair,” he during Monday's hearing.

Outside, demonstrators held a rally to protest the proposed hike.

“We believe that the increase is egregious,” said Wan Smith, Just Energy Organizer, Partnership for Southern Equity. “The national average for base-fee increases is about $1.85, so in contrast to that $7.95 we believe is malicious,” she added.

The company says it needs the money to strengthen the state's electrical system, rebuild its storm restoration fund, to close coal ash plants, and to comply with federal regulations.

If the typical residential customer uses 1,000 kilowatt hours per month their bill would go up by $9.78 per month starting next year, according to calculations released by Georgia Power

“People are left wondering how they are going to make ends meet,” Smith said. “This is a significant increase,” Smith added. “We agree there needs to be storm damage repairs done. We agree that there needs to be coal ash cleanup however not on the backs of working class people. We believe that Georgia Power should foot the bill,” Smith added saying the high-earning company has the funds to sponsor it’s projects.

The Georgia Public Service Commission will make the decision on if the rate is appropriate or not. It will hold another hearing in November to give Georgia Power a chance to respond to the commissions calculations. The commission will issue a final decision on a possible rate hike in December.

“The Georgia Public Service Commission is the advocate for all rate-payers in Georgia,” said GPSC spokesperson Tom Krause. “Whether they protest or whether the average man and woman just flicking on their light switch at home, we are there to make sure that the rates are effective for their outcome,” he said.

There are discounts for low income seniors, some pre-pay options, and a flat bill option. The company says it has worked for years to help all income ranges.

Copyright 2019 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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