The average SCE&G residential customers will see more than $110 taken off their electric bill this month because of lower rates and a one-time credit for past electricity use.
And former SCE&G customers who received power bills from April through July could see a check coming their way, according to the utility.
A judge Monday allowed a temporary 15-percent cut to SCE&G’s electric rates to take effect Tuesday, scoring a major victory for S.C. lawmakers and some 727,000-plus S.C. electric customers.
Legislators approved the rate cut after SCE&G abandoned its $9 billion, decadelong effort to build two new nuclear reactors at Fairfield County’s V.C. Summer Nuclear Station, a project that SCE&G’s customers have paid more than $2 billion to finance.
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SCE&G’s corporate parent, SCANA, said Tuesday it would appeal the judge’s ruling.
As the fight goes on, here are some answers to frequently asked questions:
What will my August power bill look like?
SCE&G’s residential electric customers would see a more than $22-a-month reduction in their power bill, on average, plus a nearly $90 one-time credit. That will lower the average residential bill for a customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours from about $150 to about $38.
The amount of the credit for past electricity use will vary, depending on usage, according to SCE&G.
How soon will customers see lower bills?
The temporary rate reduction and one-time credit will appear as a line item on customers’ bills issued on and after Tuesday, Aug. 7.
Is the rate cut permanent?
No. The rate cut is temporary and could remain in effect through the final billing cycle of December. But it could end sooner if the S.C. Public Service Commission rules on SCE&G’s permanent rates and pending merger with Virginia-based Dominion Energy.
What impact with the rate cut have on the Dominion merger?
Dominion said Monday it remains convinced that its buyout “proposal is the best opportunity for SCE&G customers to get the most amount of benefit and with the greatest certainty.”
Dominion’s proposed buyout of SCE&G parent company SCANA Corp. includes a refund of $1,000 for each household served by SCE&G, on average, and cuts electric rates by $10 a month.
“We are going to continue to work in that direction,” Dominion spokesman Chet Wade said.
The PSC has until the end of December to make its decision on the merger. If the merger is approved, Dominion has committed to paying the refunds within 90 days of the deal closing.
What impact will the rate cut have on SCE&G?
It’s not good, investors said Monday and Tuesday.
SCANA’s stock price plummeted after Monday’s ruling, losing roughly 5 percent of its value. The stock closed at $40.02 a share Tuesday, down $2.16.
U.S. District Court Judge Michelle Childs’ order also raises the possibility that SCE&G could be forced to refund the roughly $444 million it has collected since abandoning efforts to build two new nuclear reactors in Fairfield County last July.
Childs said a 2007 S.C. law, the Base Load Review Act, allows utilities to recover their costs for building a nuclear plant through higher rates only so long as the plant is constructed or being constructed, according to approved construction schedules and estimates.
“(I)t is not clear that any entitlement exists where a nuclear plant is not constructed or being constructed,” Childs wrote, adding it is up to the utility to prove before the PSC that its decision to abandon the nuclear project was prudent.
A spokesman for the S.C. Office of Regulatory Staff, the state’s utility watchdog, said the money that SCE&G has collected since abandoning the nuclear project last July will be an issue in front of the Public Service Commission this fall.
Also, SCANA critics plan to use the Bechtel report — a once-secret evaluation of the nuclear project that contends the utility’s spending at the V.C. Summer nuclear site was imprudent since at least 2016.
Will SCE&G appeal the court order?
Yes. SCANA said Tuesday in an email to investors it will appeal the order denying SCE&G’s motion for a preliminary injunction and will seek expedited consideration from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
Also Tuesday, Judge Childs denied SCE&G’s motion for a temporary injunction barring the rate cuts until it could appeal her ruling to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond.
What about former SCE&G customers? Will they get refunds?
Yes. According to SCE&G, a check will be sent to former customers based on their forwarding address so long as there is not an outstanding balance on their account.