Electric Utility Regulation in Georgia

This chapter first gives a brief overview of the different types of electric utilities in Georgia. Next, it identifies specific opportunities for communities to engage with the decision-making process and provides additional resources for citizens. Finally, it highlights examples of effective community-led actions that helped keep electric utilities accountable to the communities they serve.

Overview of Electric Utilities in Georgia

In Georgia, there are over 90 retail electric utilities, which distribute electricity to the public.[1]

Utility decisions determine customer rates — the price you pay for electricity — and affect the makeup of energy sources as well as consumer access to cheaper or renewable energy sources.

Each electric utility in Georgia has a monopoly on serving those in a particular service area: it is the sole electric provider for that area.[2]

Georgia’s utilities fall into three categories: investor-owned, membership cooperatives, and municipal-owned. Each type of utility has its own structure and decision-making process, and each offers different opportunities for public involvement.


Investor-Owned Utilities

Electric Membership Cooperatives (EMCs)

Municipal Electric Utilities


Opportunities for Community Involvement

Georgia Power

The Public Service Commission (PSC) regulates and sets rates for Georgia Power as well as investor-owned telecommunications and natural gas utilities in Georgia. The Commission does not set rates for municipal electric utilities or electric membership cooperatives (EMCs).

The PSC is made up of five commissioners who are elected statewide and serve staggered six-year terms.[18] Commission members are required to live in one of five districts but are elected by voters statewide — not just residents within their districts. At the time of publication in August 2023, the election method for the PSC members is the subject of federal litigation pending in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Georgia voters challenged the statewide election method as a violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 because it dilutes the voting power of Black voters.

The PSC provides opportunities for public participation.

All hearings, administrative sessions, committee meetings, and cases are available to the public. Any interested individual may sign up to provide oral or written statements in proceedings before the PSC.

Speaking at PSC meetings or public hearings during PSC proceedings can be a hugely valuable tool to influence PSC decision-making directly. It can also help garner broader attention to increase public pressure on the PSC.

There are two particularly significant PSC proceedings:
Long-term Resource Planning Proceedings
Rate Cases


In addition to providing comments or statements during PSC meetings, there are multiple other opportunities for individual and community advocates to participate in decisions.


Electric Membership Cooperatives

As mentioned above, each EMC has its own board of directors elected by all members of the co-op. With community engagement, EMCs have the potential to be very responsive to member interests and community concerns.

But many EMCs in Georgia and across the country generally have very low voter turnout and have longstanding practices that fail to engage members and foster democratic control. For a majority of the 900 EMCs in the country, voter turnout for elections is usually 10% or less.[23]

Ways to engage with EMCs:

    • Reach out to board members: Board members are elected by the community to serve community interests. Reaching out to voice concerns does not have to be limited to in-person or formal meetings. Check your co-op’s website for names and contact information for the board. You can also check your electric bill itself for phone numbers and information on how to connect with members of the board.

    • Attend member meetings: EMCs are ultimately controlled by their members through annual or special meetings where each member has one vote. Though these meetings have a mandatory quorum requirement, many Georgia cooperatives do not have robust requirements to ensure representative and inclusive governance.[24]
      • For instance, the bylaws of the Sawnee EMC set a minimum quorum at 150 members compared to its approximately 185,000 members.[25] That means that decisions, such as electing the board of directors, can be made with participation from less than 0.01% of the entire membership.[26]

    • Vote: While some EMCs require in-person attendance at annual meetings to cast votes, some also allow mail voting.

    • Review bylaws and gather information on your EMC: Georgia Watch has compiled templates and checklists to evaluate EMCs in Georgia for compliance and transparency.[27]

    • Change the bylaws: If your EMC has a longstanding practice that limits participation or raises other concerns, you can try to change the bylaws by contacting board members or speaking to other members at a meeting. For example, restrictions on postal voting may unnecessarily limit public participation in EMCs. If your EMC does not allow postal voting, you can advocate for changes to the bylaws to allow postal voting.
      • After member input, Grady EMC changed its bylaws in 2017 to allow mail-in voting.[28]

    • Join the board: If you are interested in getting directly involved in your EMC, you can run for a board seat. Oftentimes incumbent board members run unopposed.
      • Review your EMC’s bylaws for election information and rules. EMCs are broken down into districts. If there is not a vacant seat in your district, each director’s seat should be open at annual meetings.[29]Usually, you can secure a spot on the ballot by collecting enough signatures on a petition. The number of signatures necessary varies widely by cooperative.[30]
      • For more information on joining the board, see the NAACP Just Energy Policies and Practices Action Toolkit covering electric cooperatives.


Additional EMC Resources:

Municipal Electric Utilities

Public power utilities are operated as a division of the local government.

Like other local government decisions, residents have a direct voice in utility decisions, including rates and energy sources. Rates and services are generally governed by the city council or county commission, and some cities may have an appointed or elected utility board.[31]

Individuals and communities can participate in utility decisions by voting in local elections and by attending city council meetings and other public forums. You can also reach out directly to your elected officials to voice concerns about your electric utility.

By participating in local utility governance, you can influence actions such as customer rates, energy conservation and efficiency programs, energy sources, and low-income assistance programs.[32] You can locate information about your municipal utility through your city or county website.

Success Stories:

Communities Holding Electric Utilities Accountable

[1] Understanding the Electricity System in Georgia, Southface Institute 7 (May 2018), https://www.southface.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Georgia-Electricity-System-Primer-May-2018-Draft.pdf.  

[2] O.C.G.A. §§ 46-3-4 and 46-3-5.

[3] Id. at § 46-2-1(a), (b).

[4] Id. at § 46-2-1.

[5] O.C.G.A. § 46-2-23(a) (“The commission shall have exclusive power to determine what are just and reasonable rates and charges to be made by any person, firm, or corporation subject to its jurisdiction.”)

[6] See Ga. Retail Ass’n v. Ga. Pub. Serv. Comm’n, 300 S.E.2d 544, 546 (Ga. Ct. App. 1983).

[7] See O.C.G.A. § 46-3A-3.

[8] Georgia Watch, Georgia Electric Membership Cooperatives 3 (Nov. 2015), https://www.georgiawatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/GEORGIA-EMCs_Report-on-IRS-Compliance-and-Transparency.pdf.

[9] Id. at 10-11.

[10] Georgia’s EMCs, Georgia EMC, https://georgiaemc.com/page/GeorgiasEMCs (last visited July 11, 2020).

[11] O.C.G.A. §§ 46-3-170 and 46-3-12.

[12] Municipal utilities and EMCs are both subject to limited regulation by PSC (resolving territorial disputes, records, financing). See O.C.G.A. §§ 46-3-12 and 46-3-152.

[13] The Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia (MEAG) which is a consortium of different public electrical system was formed in order “to function without profit in developing and promoting for the public good in this state, adequate, dependable, and economical sources and supplies of bulk electric power and energy[.]” See O.C.G.A. § 46-3-10.

[14] About MEAG Power, MEAG Power, https://www.meagpower.org/About/tabid/60/Default.aspx.

[15] Electric, Dalton Utilities, https://www.dutil.com/electric/.

[16] Welcome, Chickamauga Utilities, http://chickamaugautilities.com.

[17] Electrical Department, Hampton Georgia, https://www.hamptonga.gov/185/Electrical-Department.

[18] O.C.G.A. § 46-2-1.

[19] Id. at § 46-3A-1(7).

[20] Id. at § 46-3A-2(b).

[21] Deciding a Rate Case, Georgia Public Service Commission, http://www.psc.state.ga.us/cases/deciding_a_rate_case.asp.

[22] Federal Power Comm. v. Home Natural Gas Co., 320 U.S. 591, 605 (1944).

[23] NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program, Just Energy Policies and Practices Action Toolkit Module 5 23-24 https://naacp.org/resources/just-energy-reducing-pollution-creating-jobs-toolkit; Matt Grimley, Just How Democratic Are Rural Electric Cooperatives, Institute for Local Self-Reliance (Jan. 13, 2016), https://ilsr.org/just-how-democratic-are-rural-electric-cooperatives/.

[24] Georgia Watch, Georgia Electric Membership Cooperatives: IRC §501(c)(12) Compliance and Transparency 9-10 (Nov. 2014), https://www.georgiawatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/GEORGIA-EMCs_Report-on-IRS-Compliance-and-Transparency.pdf.

[25] Id.

[26] Id.; Sawnee EMC Quick Stats, Sawnee EMC, https://www.sawnee.com/facts-and-figures.

[27] Georgia Watch, Georgia Electric Membership Cooperatives: IRC §501(c)(12) Compliance and Transparency 9-10 (Nov. 2014) https://www.georgiawatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/GEORGIA-EMCs_Report-on-IRS-Compliance-and-Transparency.pdf.

[28] See 67 Grady E.M.C. News 3 (Aug. 2017), http://gradyemc.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Grady-EMC-July-2017-Newsletter.pdf.

[29] NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program, Just Energy Policies and Practices Action Toolkit Module 5 23-24, https://naacp.org/resources/just-energy-reducing-pollution-creating-jobs-toolkit.

[30] Id.

[31] American Public Power Association, Public Power for Your Community 9 (2016), https://www.publicpower.org/system/files/documents/municipalization-public_power_for_your_community.pdf.

[32] Id. at 14-15.

[33] Nation’s Last New Coal Plant Proposal Finally Succumbs in Georgia, Southern Environmental Law Center (Apr. 15, 2020), https://www.southernenvironment.org/news-and-press/news-feed/nations-last-new-coal-plant-proposal-finally-succumbs-in-georgia.

[34] Victory: Cobb EMC Pulls out of Coal-Fired Power Plants, Clean Energy (Jan. 27, 2012), https://cleanenergy.org/blog/victory-cobb-emc-pulls-out-of-coal-fired-power-plants/.

[35] Id.

[36] Solar Victory in Oxford, Ga., Means Lower Bills for Rooftop Solar Customers, Southern Environmental Law Center (Aug. 19, 2019), https://selc.link/2Zfsxo3.

[37] Georgia Public Service Commission Delivers Clean Energy Wins, Southern Environmental Law Center, https://www.southernenvironment.org/news-and-press/press-releases/georgia-public-service-commission-delivers-clean-energy-wins.