S.C. House and Senate leaders reached a deal Wednesday to slash SCE&G’s rates by 15 percent temporarily, nearly wiping out what the utility is charging its customers for a failed nuclear project. The deal still must clear a few hurdles to become law, but here are five ways the package of proposals would affect S.C. power customers.
1. A temporary rate cut. The roughly 15-percent rate cut would save SCE&G customers some $260 million on their power bills between now and December if the proposed law is upheld in court. The typical SCE&G customer now is paying about $27 a month in higher power bills for the useless reactors. That would be reduced to about $5.
2. An exit by Dominion? No refunds? The package of proposals could drive Dominion Energy away. The Virginia-based company has offered to buy SCE&G’s parent company, SCANA, and deliver its customers $1,000 refunds and a $10-a-month rate cut. But it has hinted it will pull out of the deal if lawmakers meddle with SCE&G’s power bills. Dominion wants to charge SCE&G customers another $3.8 billion for the unfinished V.C. Summer reactors over the next 20 years.
3. Delay in deciding who should pay. The question of who — customers, shareholders or both — must pay for SCE&G's failed V.C. Summer Station expansion going forward won’t be answered until December, if these proposals pass. Lawmakers delayed that ruling, now set for July, by the Public Service Commission to give state regulators and other groups more time to investigate SCE&G's role in the debacle.
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4. Focus on prudence. The Legislature, which elects members of the PSC, is trying to influence that agency to rule that SCE&G shouldn't be allowed to charge customers for certain costs of the project — specifically those that resulted from the utility's alleged mismanagement. The proposal defines “prudent and “imprudent” for the PSC, which must decide whether SCE&G’s increased costs for the project were “prudently” incurred and, thus, can be passed along to customers.
5. A new consumer advocate. S.C. power customers would get a consumer advocate to fight for them in utility rate-hike cases. Most power customers have no idea when their utility is trying to raise rates until it’s too late. This proposal would give them a watchful defender.