SCE&G says its share is expected to be about $4.5 billion
Costs of adding two reactor units at SCE&G's Jenkinsville nuclear plant appear to be in line with initial projections, according to documents the utility has filed with state regulators.
In a quarterly progress report sent to the state Public Service Commission, the utility said latest financial forecasts show that the company's share of the project cost will be about $4.5 billion.
That's the figure South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. used when it won approval in February from the state panel to build the reactor units.
As part of the agreement, commissioners also ordered SCE&G to submit periodic reports so they could keep tabs on cost.
The first report, filed in July, indicated the utility's costs could reach $6.9 billion. That prompted opponents to charge that the project was encountering cost overruns, even though the reactor project has yet to be approved by federal regulators.
SCE&G attributed the difference to the accounting formula used to compute the cost figure.
"Those estimates are based on a five-year historical average of commodity costs and will vary over time," said Eric Boomhower, utility spokesman. "The bottom line is that we are still on track to complete this project on time, at or below the originally forecast construction cost."
Tom Clements, with Friends of the Earth, an opponent of the project, labeled the utility's report as "vague."
"The report confirms that cost estimates by SCE&G can swing widely simply due to accounting methods and are unreliable, leaving rate payers in the dark as to the magnitude of costs being expended at their expense," Clements said.
The Cayce-based utility, a subsidiary of SCANA Corp., received state permission in February to phase in a 37 percent rate hike over the next decade for the plant expansion. By January 2019, when the second new reactor is expected to go on line, the average residential monthly bill will rise by about $40 to $147.11.
The utility has said charging customers for construction costs while the reactors are built will save $1 billion in financing costs.
State-operated Santee Cooper is partnering with SCE&G on the project. The companies already operate one reactor unit at Jenkinsville.
The $4.5 billion cited in the quarterly report is only SCE&G's share of the project.
The companies also are awaiting approval from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission. That decision might not come for two more years.