6 Questions for Georgia’s Public Service Commissioner Candidates

District 5: Dawn Randolph (D)

Democrat Dawn Randolph has long worked in public policy advocacy and consulting. This would be her first elected office.

1. Two new nuclear reactors under construction at Plant Vogtle are over-budget and years behind schedule. Should the project continue moving forward? Why?

I’m tired of being a blank check for Plant Vogtle; it is beyond time that Georgia Power and other owners take on risk-sharing for the project and the public service commissioner works with the legislature to cap costs. The picture Georgia Power paints for the Public Service Commission is very different than the reality on the ground, which allows the commissioners to turn a blind eye to the real problems. If the commissioners spoke with the electricians, carpenters, and other workers on the job site, they’d know the real deal of bad plans, long waiting periods for supplies, and idle hours spent waiting. Good regulators should be doing stress tests to get ahead of any issues. Great regulators respond to reports on the ground, promote financial wellness of the project, and protect ratepayers from overzealous corporate entities.

2. Should the Georgia General Assembly amend the Georgia Nuclear Financing Act to limit or prevent Georgia Power from profiting from subsequent project delays?

I will work with leaders in both the House and Senate to secure legislative action—not only to cap the cost of the project, but also to claw-back the profit Georgia Power will receive just off of the loans. I will ensure that the consumer and public is at the center of every decision and vote I take on the public service commission.

The public service commission has written a blank check and the company is determined to cash it at the greatest profit. The commission and Georgia Power have had every opportunity to do the right thing for Georgia and have continued to fall short on their promises to Georgia energy consumers. What we are seeing is an Averch-Johnson effect where regulated utilities make unneeded capital investments in order to increase their profits. Efficiency, prudency, and consumers are discarded in the pursuit of money.

3. How can the Georgia Public Service Commission encourage investment in, and adoption of, clean energy like solar, wind, and other renewable, zero- to low-carbon resources?

While Georgia is moving in the right direction in the development of alternative renewable energy, it is still behind. Georgia can take the lead in renewable energy capacity. We have to ensure the rebates and incentives for solar are restored and are well known to all consumers and that they stay in place. In reviewing current information, I understand solar installation costs have fallen significantly in the past decade and the industry is approaching a $1 billion economic impact in Georgia. Yet I know we have fallen behind on efforts to advance carbon sequestration and clean energy resource development. We need to stay on top of emerging technologies and encourage investment.

4. Next year the public service commissioner will adopt Georgia Power’s Integrated Resource Plan. What will you be looking for from the utility in its plan?

One goal during my tenure on the Public Service Commission is to add a gig of solar every year. To accomplish this, Georgia will need both solar farms and small arrays in parking lots and rooftops powering local communities. Another advantage of renewable energy is distributed generation, which can provide safety and security to our power grid. Right now we have a “MacGyver Plan” of relying on analog skills to protect us from a cyber security attack. By creating a system with smaller pockets of energy—from creation to end user—we can limit impact of large-scale system outages. I love science and will pursue every avenue available when serving on the Public Service Commission to ensure alternative renewable energy can grow and thrive.

5. Should cost be the determining factor in determining what energy sources that utilities use, or should goals like cleaner air and reduced carbon emissions?

My principals are to ensure our utilities are affordable and fair, reliable and safe, and sustainable for the future. First, I will examine each rate case brought before the Public Service Commission and consider the impact on the residential and business owner to evaluate the economic impact each decision will place on the consumer. Second, I will be diligent in seeking answers to reliable and safe infrastructure to protect our air, water, land, wildlife, and people. I will ask for plans and proof that our utility grid and delivery system are safe from computer hijacking. Third, I will work to encourage and incentivize development of green technologies, such as an expansion of solar, full-capacity for long-distance electric vehicle travel, and emerging technologies. I will create a council of advisors who understand the complex science and technical nature of current and emerging energy issues, and this will include consumers.

6. The Georgia Public Service Commission is one of the most impactful yet overlooked state agencies. What can commissioners do to increase awareness about the public service commissioner’s role, duties, and decisions?

Creating an open and welcoming environment for input and discussion is key to participation. I am very passionate about working with local organizations, local governments, and individuals so they understand the complex network of programs to help seniors and other low-income individuals pay for their power bills. Programs like LIHEAP have the best impact when consumers know about the resources and have easy access to apply.

I’ve spent my career training others to be their own best advocates in critical areas of need —environmental, mental health, substance abuse, and disability community. As a candidate, I have been traveling across the state with open heart, ears, and mind. I’ve purposely sought out those living and working in the shadows of Plant Vogtle, learning what this project means to them, their health, and their livelihood. When the Public Service Commission approves new sites for energy generation, we must hold informational meetings to gather input on location and be responsive to reports on the ground and consumer concerns.

Essentially, we must get out of Atlanta and meet with citizens, bring all stakeholders together to discover solutions, and create a more user-friendly website.