SCE&G customers’ chances of getting back the $1.7 billion they have paid toward an abandoned nuclear project could get a boost if lawmakers pass a proposal filed Thursday.
The new bill would give South Carolina’s Public Service Commission the authority to order SCE&G to repay its customers under certain conditions.
Under the proposal, refunds could be ordered if the PSC finds the project’s skyrocketing costs stemmed from SCE&G’s imprudence, mismanagement or poor oversight.
Refunds also could be ordered if the Cayce-based utility willfully misrepresented or withheld important information about the project.
The bill was filed by members of a special S.C. House committee that met regularly this fall to investigate the nuclear project’s failure.
“Protecting the South Carolina ratepayer in the aftermath of the V.C. Summer nuclear facility fallout has been the House Utility Ratepayer Protection Committee’s sole focus throughout its extensive and thorough study,” S.C. House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington, said in a press release.
The refund proposal is important because the Public Service Commission does not now have the power to require that a utility issue a refund to its customers, Lucas spokeswoman Caroline Delleney .
The special House committee also filed five other proposals Thursday, including one that would block SCE&G from continuing to charge its customers for the scuttled project.
About 18 percent of the average SCE&G customer’s bill – roughly $27 a month – is earmarked for the project, now on life support in Fairfield County.
Other House proposals would:
▪ Block Santee Cooper, the project’s state-owned minority partner, from charging its customers any further for the failed nuclear venture
▪ Create a consumer advocate to represent power customers in rate-hike cases before the Public Service Commission, which sets power rates
▪ Give the S.C. Office of Regulatory Staff more power to demand testimony and documents from utilities
▪ Shake up the membership of two state boards – the PSC and the state-owned Santee Cooper utility – and set new criteria for future applicants to those boards
▪ Require Santee Cooper’s electricity rate-hike requests to be approved by the PSC. Previously, those rates were set solely by the state-owned utility’s board.
▪ Replace the legislative committee that screens candidates for the PSC with a new, 12-member board of legislative and gubernatorial appointees.