Building more nuclear power plants promises to hold down future electric costs for S.C. residents, SCANA chief Bill Timmerman said Wednesday at an investors forum in New York.
Timmerman, CEO of the state's only Fortune 500 company, said SCANA's principal subsidiary, SCE&G, chose nuclear power over more traditional fuel sources like coal, as well as renewable power sources like wind and solar, because it was cheaper.
It will cost $76 per megawatt hour to produce electricity with nuclear fuel, compared with $114 for coal, $132 for wind and $614 for solar, according to statistics provided at the symposium by SCANA.
Seeking to produce power from the cheapest fuel will be easier on the pocketbooks of South Carolina Electric & Gas Co.'s 652,000 electric customers, Timmerman said. He noted that South Carolina ranks 49th in per capita income, and the household income of 40 percent of SCE&G's electric customers is only twice that of the federal poverty level of $22,050 for a family of four.
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"Any sort of attempt to force expensive generation down the throats of our customers would be pretty hard to swallow," Timmerman said.
The utility, though, won approval from state regulators to raise electric rates an average of about 2 percent a year over the life of the project, which is expected to be completed in early 2019.
The rate increase, which SCE&G projects will total 37 percent, is needed to cover the cost of borrowing billions of dollars to pay for the nuclear project. By covering borrowing costs over the course of the 10-year project, about $1 billion should be saved, the utility said.
Cayce-based SCE&G is being joined by state-operated Santee Cooper in a $9.8 billion project to build two, 1,117-megawatt reactor units at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in Jenkinsville, about 28 miles northwest of Columbia. The first unit is expected to be in operation by spring 2016.
SCANA also believes nuclear power will be good for the environment because it doesn't emit greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, Timmerman said.
When the second reactor unit that's planned goes into service in 2019, 55 percent of SCE&G power will be nuclear-generated, Timmerman said. That will reduce the amount of carbon emissions from the company's coal and gas generation plants back to 1996 levels, he said.
Turning to the regulatory process, Timmerman noted that the next major date in the nuclear project will be the third quarter of 2011, when the company expects to receive a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build and operate the planned reactor units.
State regulators approved SCE&G's application to build the reactor units in February.
Some preliminary construction work, including site clearing, has begun at the plant site, Timmerman said, adding he believes the work "expresses a degree of comfort over the federal process."
Timmerman was joined by executives of other energy providers at the 2009 Wells Fargo Exploration and Production, Energy Services & Utilities Symposium.