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David Pendered

Millennials favor coal-fired power plants, Georgia Power rate hike, says poll released by Sierra Club

By David Pendered

Young Georgia voters strongly favor the proposed Georgia Power rate hike and fewer than half support shifting from coal to renewables to generate electricity, according to a results of a poll by the Georgia chapter of the Sierra Club.

Coal-fired power plants, such as Plant Bowen near Cartersville, are supported by a majority of millennials, according to a poll by the Sierra Club’s Georgia chapter. Credit: panoramio.com (2008)

Coal-fired power plants, such as Plant Bowen near Cartersville, are supported by a majority of millennials, according to a poll by the Sierra Club’s Georgia chapter. Credit: panoramio.com (2008)

The polling company advised against reading too much into results from the millennials because the margin of error for the age bracket is 13.2 percent, compared to 3.23 percent for the total poll. The broader results of the poll show widespread opposition to the proposed rate hike and strong support for shifting away from coal-fired power plants.

Georgia Power is requesting to hike its rates in order to raise $873 million. Georgia’s Public Service Commission is slated to vote on the proposal Dec. 17, following a decision Thursday morning by a PSC committee to schedule the matter for a vote by the full commission.

The telephone poll of 923 voters was conducted from Dec. 6-8 by Public Policy Polling, of Raleigh, N.C., on behalf of the Sierra Club’s Georgia chapter.

The poll showed that 67 percent of respondents aged 18 to 29 years of age supports the proposed rate hike. Results from the entire universe of respondents showed 69 percent oppose the rate hike proposal.

Jim Williams, of Public Policy Polling, cautioned that results from the millennials need to be considered in the light of their small representation in the overall poll. He estimated that about 55 young voters were contacted, and he noted that young people tend not to be energized on these types of issues at this stage in the election cycle.

Here are the results when voters were asked if they would approve the proposed rate hike:

  • Age 18-29: 67 percent;
  • Age 30-45: 23 percent;
  • Age 46-65: 17 percent;
  • Age 65 and older: 20 percent.

Young people are less supportive than their elders of replacing coal with renewable energy at a similar cost. For the categories of “strongly support” and “somewhat support,” the totals are:

  • Age 18-29: 45 percent;
  • Age 30-45: 65 percent;
  • Age 46-65: 70 percent;
  • Age 65 and older: 72 percent.

Younger voters are far more willing to pay Georgia Power for the work before the work begins. Asked if they would allow Georgia Power to collect in advance, the responses were:

  • Age 18-29: 48 percent;
  • Age 30-45: 13 percent;
  • Age 46-65: 9 percent;
  • Age 65 and older: 11 percent.

Williams focused on the overall results in a statement released by the Sierra Club:

  • “These are strong results that echo what we see nationwide, no matter how liberal or conservative the state. Georgians support clean energy and want to see state leaders doing more to expand solar and wind. We also see a gut reaction against new rate hikes to keep older coal plants running, rather than investments that expand clean energy.”

Georgia Power filed documents Dec. 4 with the PSC showing the hike would be phased in over a three-year period starting in 2014. The utility serves about 2.4 million customers including MARTA, which won some price concessions in the final settlement.

Georgia Power has said the rate increase would be about $2.18 a month for the average residential customer in 2014. The additional increases would range from $3 to $4 a month in the second and third year of the increases.

Georgia Power intends to use some of the additional funds to upgrade coal-fired power plants. The Sierra Club opposes the expense.

“The investment in coal-fired plants doesn’t make sense,” said chapter Director Colleen Kiernan. “With Plant Vogtle coming on line, Georgia Power has excess capacity and will continue to have excess capacity with the addition of 2,200 megawatts.”

Georgia Power’s parent, Southern Co., won approval to build two nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle, about 30 miles south of Augusta. The Obama administration has provided federal loan guarantees and Southern has said in a statement that its total guaranteed borrowings would not exceed about $3.4 billion.


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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  1. Trey Allen December 12, 2013 3:12 pm

    You’re writing a headline like that based on a poll of 55 people? With a 13.2% margin of error? Really?Report

  2. Steve Leeds December 12, 2013 3:41 pm

    I’m really disappointed that the feature of this is the headline on a very questionable margin of error. I don’t think this is up to the traditional standard of excellence from Saporta Reports.Report

  3. Katherine Cummings December 12, 2013 3:42 pm

    The headline is more than a little misleading. Perhaps it could read “Microcosm of young Georgians remain in minority”Report

  4. Cecilia December 12, 2013 3:49 pm

    55 people aged 18-29 responded to this poll, 67% of those = 37 people (not accounting for the large margin of error). In total 923 people responded to this poll.  37 out of 923 = 4%. The headline is based on responses from 4% of the sample. 
    Why report on what 4% of people may have responded?  I appreciate that the margin of error is mentioned in the article, but suggest that the headline be changed to better reflect the poll results.
    Georgians Oppose Rate increases for coal plants and want more clean energy!Report

  5. Michael Black December 12, 2013 3:53 pm

    Even if you vest something in the 55 people with a 13.2% margin, shouldn’t the title be something like “Majority of Georgians against Georgia Power rate hike and for renewables except millenials”?Report

  6. Anastasia December 12, 2013 3:56 pm

    This headline seems misleading… reading through the poll results, it’s very clear Georgians overall oppose rate increases for coal plants and favor clean energy. There is an amazing demand in Georgia right now for clean renewable energy, GA Power has this opportunity to pursue solar. 
    Georgians Oppose Rate increases for coal plants and want more clean energy!Report

  7. Guest December 12, 2013 4:04 pm

    To highlight the Millenials in your headline is misleading and inaccurate. As stated in the article – you should not pull out a group that has a 13.2% margin of error and report that as factual. I’ve worked in the research business, and would never present as a ‘finding’ data on a group that had this much variation, let alone make it a highlight of my report.The majority of Georgians oppose rate increases for coal plants and favor clean energy – that’s the critical information here.Report

  8. Guest December 12, 2013 5:12 pm

    Why are “voters” being polled about something that only affects Georgia Power customers, who  make up about half the state’s population? Wouldn’t a more valid poll have focused on Georgia Power customers?Report

  9. Trey Allen December 12, 2013 7:25 pm

    @Guest check out the link in the article.  It appears Georgia Power customers were polled separately and the numbers were almost identical.Report

  10. Emma French December 12, 2013 9:22 pm

    The polling company specifically advised AGAINST focusing on the results from the milennials because of the high error and you decide to title the article based on those results. What’s your agenda? If this is supposed to be viewed as an unbiased news article you need to change the title and amend the first paragraph to communicate the real poll findings that the majority of Georgians oppose the rate hike and support clean energy!Report

  11. guest2323 December 13, 2013 10:33 am

    Yeah, it seems weird to me that you expressly chose to pick out the millenials in this even thought the pollster is quoted as telling you it’s not a good idea or even, in fact, accurate to do so. Sure, there’s a trend to talk about millenials right now in the press, but why do so in a way that is factually inaccurate just to generate a headline. That’s just poor reporting.Report

  12. guest2323 December 13, 2013 10:35 am

    I’m confused, did you just pick that lede because you think people like reading about millennials? Sure, they do, when the reporting is accurate and factual. You cherry picked a statistically irrelevant piece of information that even the pollster told you not to read into and turned it into your headline. That’s just plain bad journalism.Report

  13. Guest2324 December 13, 2013 2:49 pm

    Curious… was “guest2323” agreeing with himself/herself in that second post, or pretending to be another person?Report

  14. Guest2324 December 13, 2013 2:51 pm

    Yeah, great observation. I think maybe Guest2323 was doing that. That’s just poor commenting.

  15. Guest2324 December 13, 2013 3:00 pm

    On a serious note, how come the article here says the case would increase bills $2.18/month in the first year, but the Sierra press release (from the story link) says customers would pay more than $100 extra each year? It sounds like year 1 is only about $26 more per year.Report

  16. Mike284 December 13, 2013 3:44 pm

    I question this author’s legitimacy; who writes a headline based on a sample of 55 people statewide? He clearly wasn’t paying attention in Statistics class!Report

  17. Trey Allen December 13, 2013 5:32 pm

    @Guest2324 The rate increase is a step increase, with the largest increases coming in 2015 and 2016. By January 2016 total rate increases could go up to nearly $9 a month ($8.75) for the average customer—thats over $100 a year.
    Another example of the author picking data to fit his narrative?Report

  18. Guest2324 December 15, 2013 12:06 am

    Trey Allen Hmm, so the Sierra press release saying “$100 extra EACH year,” was not accurate. If my calculator is right, it will be 3 yrs from now before people will have paid $100 extra. Sounds like Sierra was trying to fit a narrative as well.Report

  19. Trey Allen December 15, 2013 1:53 am

    @Guest2324 Trey Allen  Really, you’re claiming the Sierra Club is falsifying data because they said $100 ‘each’ year instead of ‘a’ year– by the way it’d be $100 a year EACH year after 2016–… weak argument at best my friend.
    Nonetheless, The Sierra Club is an advocacy organization…the Saporta Report is meant to maintain “high journalistic excellence”. Pendered’s obvious manipulation of a very clear trend in this story– making the headline/lede narrative the answers of thirty something 18-25 year olds which stood in stark contrast those given by the nearly 1,000 other Georgians asked– is a far more irresponsible abuse of data and position
    It’s simply shoddy journalism.Report


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