SCANA earnings jump on rate hike, customer growth

rburris@thestate.comFebruary 21, 2013 

— SCANA Corp. had one of its most profitable years ever in 2012 as more customers moved to South Carolina and a rate hike went into effect for construction of two new nuclear plants.

The Cayce-based energy giant’s earnings jumped 8.5 percent last year to $420 million, the company said Thursday. SCANA’s chief subsidiary, S.C. Electric & Gas, saw an 11.4 percent increase to $352 million in earnings for the year.

“It was a good year,” said Jimmy Addison, SCANA executive vice president and chief financial officer.

South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia – the three states SCANA operates in – all are in the top 10 destinations in the country for folks moving from other states, Addison said, citing U.S. Census data.

Some of SCANA’s peer companies in other parts of the country have fewer customers today than one year ago, he said.

“We are very fortunate in South Carolina, due to the business environment, due to being a right-to-work state, and due to frankly, clean energy – businesses want to locate here,” Addison said.

SCE&G also raised customers’ rates to pay interest on bonds the company uses to build two $9.8 billion nuclear plants at its V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in Jenkinsville, 25 miles northwest of Columbia. Automatic yearly rate increases are authorized under a Base Load Review Act.

The 2.69 percent rate increase started in October, boosting customers’ bills by $3.57 per 1,000 kilowatt hours used.

Critics say with the Summer plant being behind schedule, it will cost customers even more money than initially projected.

“The delays are going to mean the project cost is gonna go up,” said Tom Clements, of Friends of the Earth, a grass-roots environmental organization. “Any single month of delays could mean millions of dollars in added costs to the project.”

Addison said the two new units under construction at Summer are still on track to come online in 2017 and 2018 as scheduled, and they currently are $600 million below cost.

The 2012 earnings year may be SCANA’s largest ever, Addison said, with the possible exception of several years ago when the company sold several hundred million dollars of telecommunications assets unrelated to SCE&G’s electric, natural gas and other energy-related businesses. Last year, SCANA’s bottom line also was helped by $10 million in profits generated from cell phone tower sales by its unregulated communications subsidiary, Addison said.

The earnings jump also meant a 19-cent per share increase to $3.20 for SCANA stockholders. SCE&G shareholders gained 23 cents per share to $2.69.

Both company’s earning returns were within market expectations.

Based on the 2012 earnings returns, SCANA also said Thursday it raised its targeted growth rate for 2013 to between 3 percent and 6 percent, up from its initial projections of between 3 percent and 5 percent.

The company estimates a $3.25 to $3.45 per share return on earnings this year, SCANA said.

SCANA subsidiary SCE&G serves 670,000 electric customers in South Carolina; PSNC serves 497,000 natural gas customers in North Carolina; SCANA energy served 440,000 retail natural gas customers in Georgia in the third quarter of 2012; and through corporate businesses the company also serves 323,000 other natural gas customers.

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