COLUMBIA, SC — Consumers still are cutting back on their use of electricity, switching off lights and turning the air conditioning up as they battle through the slow economic recovery, SCANA officials said Thursday, releasing the utility’s second-quarter earnings. But the Cayce-based giant said its customer base is growing, making up for the shortfall in use by individual customers.
SCANA Corp., parent company of S.C. Electric & Gas, reported its earnings increased 9 percent in the second quarter compared with the same period a year earlier, beating analysts’ expectations.
“New (electric) customers are as high as they have been since pre-recession,” chief financial officer Jimmy Addison said during an earnings call with securities analysts and investors Thursday.
Electric rates also are on the rise, and another 2.87 percent increase is scheduled to start in November. That will boost customers’ bills by $4.17 a month for every 1,000 kilowatt hours used – or about $50 a year for those averaging that use.
SCANA earned 60 cents a share, or $85 million, during the quarter, compared to 55 cents, or $72 million, a year earlier. Its stock gained 43 cents a share in trading Thursday, closing at $52.34.
The company confirmed it expects its earnings to grow by 3 percent to 6 percent over the next 3 to 5 years as the region’s manufacturing base expands.
Through the first half of the year, businesses have announced $1.5 billion in investment, promising 6,000 jobs in the utility’s Carolinas’ territory, Addison said. “We are pleased that this is shaping up to be another solid year,” he said.
Heavy rains in the state this year also contributed to SCANA’s earnings increase, company officials said. The company has trimmed 300 fewer miles of rights of way so far this year compared to the same point in 2012 because of flooding and rainfall totals that were 50 percent above normal. However, the maintenance savings likely will be spent in the second half of the year, officials said.
The company also has trimmed more than 100 jobs in the past year, mainly through attrition, officials said during the call. Those jobs were at coal plants that closed and other positions throughout the company that were not filled as they became open.
Utility officials did not have an update on delays in the company’s nuclear plant project in Fairfield County, saying they should know more, by the end of the year, about how much that delay will cost and who will be responsible for the overruns.
SCANA said two months ago that completion of its two new Fairfield nuclear plants – a $10 billion project – will be delayed because of a delay in parts delivery from Chicago Bridge & Iron. The delay could result in a cost increase of about $200 million for SCANA’s 55 percent portion of the project, the company said.
“It just takes a long time to work through who we think is responsible for what portions of the cost,” said Steve Byrne, chief operating officer.