Walmart is among the growing number of businesses, government agencies and public interest groups concerned about SCE&G’s plan to keep charging customers for a nuclear expansion project that won’t be built in South Carolina.
The national retail giant, long known for its low-cost products, has asked state utility regulators to let it intervene in a case that seeks to stop the energy charges. Company officials were not immediately available for comment Wednesday and a Walmart attorney declined comment.
But a recent letter to the state Public Service Commission indicates Walmart is worried about having to pay for the failed V.C. Summer nuclear project.
Walmart operates 35 businesses in South Carolina that are served by SCE&G, including super centers and Sam’s Clubs. Those businesses buy more than 140 million kilowatt hours annually from SCE&G, making electricity one of the largest operating costs for Walmart, the company said in its petition to the PSC.
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“Any modification to SCE&G’s electric rates and terms of service has the potential to substantially impact Walmart’s operations in South Carolina,’’ the company’s petition says. “As such, Walmart has a direct and substantial interest in the outcome of this proceeding.’’
At issue is a state Office of Regulatory Staff request that the PSC stop allowing SCE&G to charge customers for the nuclear plant expansion project. So far, SCE&G customers have been billed $1.7 billion for that project through higher utility rates.
The state Public Service Commission is to hear the first round of arguments in the case Dec. 12 . The full case would not be heard until next year, depending on the outcome of the December hearing.
The PSC agreed Wednesday to allow S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson and House Speaker Jay Lucas to intervene in the case. It also approved similar requests by the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina, the S.C. Coastal Conservation League, Friends of the Earth and the state Sierra Club.
Walmart’s request to intervene will be decided at a later date.
PSC members have to grant requests to intervene for those wanting to have a say in whether SCE&G could continue to assess the charges. Those allowed to intervene can raise concerns directly to the commission and call witnesses to testify on their behalf.
About a fifth of the average SCE&G residential customer’s power bill goes toward the nuclear project that the investor owned utility and partner Santee Cooper walked away from July 31. SCE&G has suggested that it would like to charge customers another $2.2 billion for the project.The company and Santee Cooper say they couldn’t finish the project because of rising costs and the bankruptcy of lead contractor Westinghouse. All told, they spent $9 billion.