SCE&G lowers rates for natural gas

Because it's paying less for natural gas, S.C. Electric & Gas said it has lowered rates.

Customers could see their January bills drop by 3.6 percent, or $5.21, on average versus December.

It is the second month in a row the utility lowered its natural gas rates. Still, compared with a year ago, the average January bill is expected to rise $1.39, or 1 percent, the Columbia utility said.

SCE&G's 306,000 customers statewide use more gas in January than any other month of the year. The average residential bill this month is forecast at $140.15. That could vary depending on weather.

SCE&G lowered the customer rates because wholesale natural gas prices projected over the next year have dropped. Gas purchases account for more than half of a customer's overall gas bill.

In October, SCE&G said it had received approval to raise electricity rates by an average of 1 percent to help pay for two reactor units at its V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in Fairfield County.

That was the second hike to help pay for SCE&G's part of the $9.8 billion expansion.

Cayce-based SCE&G is partnering with state-operated Santee Cooper on the project. The first reactor is scheduled to begin operation in 2016.

- Andrew Shain