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SCE&G has highest electric bills in the country, new analysis shows

Why you pay higher electric bills in SC than any other state

See how South Carolina compares to other states regarding the cost of residential electric bills.
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See how South Carolina compares to other states regarding the cost of residential electric bills.

In a state where residents pay more for electricity than anywhere else in the country, SCE&G’s bills are the highest.

Residential customers of the Cayce-headquartered utility pay an average of $163.10 a month for electricity, more than customers of every other investor-owned utility of comparable size in the United States, according to federal energy data analyzed by the S.C. Coastal Conservation League.

That is about $30 a month more than Duke Energy’s residential customers in South Carolina and $45 more than customers of the state-owned Santee Cooper utility, the analysis says.

Last week, the U.S. Energy Information Administration released a report showing S.C. residents, on average, pay more for electricity than their counterparts in every other state. The average S.C. resident spent $1,753 in 2016 for electricity, about $400 more than the national average, that report said. But the report didn’t single out which individual utilities had the highest costs.

SCE&G’s electric bills contributed heavily to the Energy Information Administration’s conclusions, the Coastal Conservation League’s energy policy director said.

“The high bills at SCE&G are a significant reason that South Carolina has the highest average power bills in the country,’’ said Eddy Moore, who tracks energy issues for the league, an environmental group that has been a leading critic of SCE&G.

Lynn Teague, a vice president with the S.C. League of Women Voters, said the Conservation League’s findings don’t surprise her.

But, she added, “I find it very disturbing and concerning, and I’d like a good explanation. I’m looking forward to seeing a very thorough audit of that.’’

The league’s findings are the latest in a series of reports focusing on the high electric bills that SCE&G customers pay each month. S.C. legislators have been given similar figures during their investigation of a failed nuclear construction project abandoned by SCE&G and its junior partner, Santee Cooper.

The league’s Moore said the cost of the bungled V.C. Summer project is one reason that SCE&G customers pay so much for electricity.

SCE&G residential customers now pay about 18 percent of their electric bills, or $27 a month, for the failed nuclear construction project. SCE&G and Santee Cooper walked away from the project July 31, citing rising costs. At the time, they already had charged customers about $2 billion for the unfinished reactors.

‘Highest rates of just about anywhere’

The Conservation League looked at EIA data from investor-owned utilities with more than 100,000 customers, or companies comparable to SCE&G, officials said. The league also added Santee Cooper into the mix, even though it is a state agency.

According to the Conservation League’s analysis of electricity bills, SCE&G residential customers paid about $9 per month more than the next highest utility, Kentucky Power Co. SCE&G’s bills also were higher than other Southern utilities, including Alabama Power Co., Gulf Power Co. of Florida and Mississippi Power Co.

Some utilities, including SCE&G, say it’s unfair to single out South Carolina for high electricity bills because Southern states rely more heavily on electricity than other parts of the country, which use more natural gas and other forms of energy.

The South also has more heating and cooling costs because of chilly winters and blazing hot summers, utility officials said. A fairer comparison would be to look at electric rates, not how high the bills are, they say.

“SCE&G’s service territory, like much of the Southeast U.S., is characterized by hot, humid summers and drastic swings in temperature during the winter months,’’ SCE&G spokesman Eric Boomhower said in an email. “Factors contributing to higher electricity usage in our area include variability in the levels of energy efficiency across residential homes in the state and the prevalent use of electricity (as opposed to natural gas) as the primary source of energy for heating, hot water and cooking – especially compared to other regions of the nation.’’

Still, S.C. Energy Office records show SCE&G’s per-kilowatt-hour revenues also are higher than other S.C. and Southeastern utilities.

SCE&G has revenues of 14.56 cents for every kilowatt-hour of electricity sold to a residential customer, more than three cents higher than Duke Energy and Santee Cooper in South Carolina, according to the S.C. Energy Office.

SCE&G’s kilowatt-hour revenues also are higher than the national average of 12.55 cents, according the Energy Office and the Energy Information Administration.

Critics of SCE&G say higher electricity bills show room for improvement by the utility.

“Our residential customers under SCE&G are paying about the highest rates of just about anywhere,’’ said Teresa Arnold, director of the state AARP. “That’s one of the reasons we’ve been so heavily involved on any rate hike’’ case.

S.C. electric bills

Average monthly residential electricity bills in South Carolina

1. SCE&G: $163.10

2. Duke Energy (former Progress Energy service area): $132.34

3. Duke Energy (Carolinas): $129.69

4. Santee Cooper: $118.60

SOURCE: U.S. Energy Administration data for 2016 analyzed by the S.C. Coastal Conservation League

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