Business Notebook

July 17, 2014 

Local & State

Midlands

SCE&G ranks in bottom tier in customer satisfaction study

South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. didn’t fare well in the latest independent customer satisfaction survey. The Cayce-based utility ranked in the bottom tier of the South region large utility segment in the J.D. Power 2014 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study.

Large utilities, based on the study, are those with more than 500,000 customers. SCE&G serves more than 673,000 customers across the state. Of the 13 utilities in the group, SCE&G came in 10th. Only two Duke Energy divisions and Tampa Electric scored lower. SCE&G’s score: 638 on a 1,000-point scale.

One possible reason: the seemingly endless round of price hikes to pay for the utility’s 55 percent portion of the $10 billion two new nuclear units at V.C. Summer nuclear station in Fairfield County north of Columbia. The average annual 2.36 percent price hikes continue for 10 years through 2019, a year after the two units come online. SCE&G says the annual spikes are meant to help defray construction costs as the reactors are built rather than springing the hike on ratepayers when they are completed.

State-owned utility Santee Cooper is SCE&G’s partner in the nuclear project. It scored in the top tier of 24 mid-size utilities in the South region, coming in seventh with a score of 702. All of the utilities in SCE&G’s category scored under 700.

Nation & World

Microsoft plans to cut 18,000 jobs

Microsoft announced the biggest layoffs in its 39-year history Thursday, outlining plans to cut 18,000 jobs in a move that marked the CEO’s sharpest pivot yet away from his predecessor’s drive for the company to make its own devices.

Although some cuts had been expected ever since Microsoft acquired Nokia’s mobile-device unit, the number amounted to 14 percent of the Microsoft workforce – about twice what analysts had estimated. The cuts will include some 12,500 jobs associated with the Nokia unit – nearly half of the 28,000 employees Microsoft brought on board in April through the acquisition.

When the cuts are complete, the company will still have about 10,000 more employees than before the Nokia acquisition, with an overall headcount of 109,000.

Duke has completed removal of coal ash from N.C. river

Federal environmental officials say Duke Energy has completed removal of large pockets of coal ash from the Dan River following a massive spill at a North Carolina power plant.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s on-scene coordinator, Myles Bartos, said Thursday that Duke had dredged up about 2,500 tons of ash and contaminated sediment, as well as another 500 tons that had accumulated in settling tanks at downstream municipal water treatment plants in Virginia. Coal ash contains an array of toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury and selenium.

Duke estimates about 39,000 tons of coal ash spewed into the Dan after a drainage pipe collapsed Feb. 2, turning the river gray for more than 70 miles. Bartos says the cleanup is considered complete, though Duke has recovered only a fraction of the total spilled.

Bartos said recent testing of both the river water and bottom sediment has shown concentrations of toxic metals below federal limits and close to what was likely present before the spill. State and federal agencies will continue to monitor the long-term environmental health of the river.

Stocks sharply lower on tensions between Russia, the West

Stocks closed sharply lower Thursday as traders worried about an escalation of tensions between Russia and the West following the downing of a passenger plane in eastern Ukraine. Traders also were unsettled by poor corporate earnings and a weak indicator for the housing market.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 161 points, or 0.9 percent, to close at 16,976. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 23 points, or 1.2 percent, to 1,958. The Nasdaq lost 62 points, or 1.4 percent, to 4,363.

SanDisk, AutoNation and Mattel were among the biggest decliners after reporting results that disappointed investors.

The (Charleston) Post and Courier and The Associated Press contributed.

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