Cindi Ross Scoppe

SC nuclear debacle, by the numbers

Clockwise from top left: SCE&G bills; SCANA CEO Ken Marsh testifies before regulators; the new nuclear plants during construction; the 2007 SC General Assembly.
Clockwise from top left: SCE&G bills; SCANA CEO Ken Marsh testifies before regulators; the new nuclear plants during construction; the 2007 SC General Assembly. cscoppe@thestate.com

A few weeks ago, I started compiling a list with numbers and other bits of information about the VC Summer nuclear reactor project, so I wouldn’t have to keep looking them up every time I wrote about the decision by SCE&G and Santee Cooper to abandon the project.

It occurred to me that a lot of you might like to have that information, so I’m sharing it.

What you’ll find here is almost all numbers: the budget, the rate hikes, market share of SC utilities. I’ve also included what state law says about abandoning a nuclear project.

The money

$11 billion: Original projected cost of the two reactors

$20 billion: Minimum projected cost, due to delays and cost overruns, when SCE&G and Santee Cooper decided to abandon the project

$9 billion: What SCE&G and Santee Cooper have spent already on the project

SCE&G

$4.9 billion: Amount of borrowed and stockholder money SCE&G has invested and hopes to recoup

$2 billion: Tax credits SCE&G hopes to receive to offset $4.9 billion investment

$700 million: Payment from Westinghouse parent Toshiba that SCE&G hopes to receive to offset $4.9 billion investment

$2.2 billion: Amount SCE&G will seek to recoup from ratepayers if it receives the tax credits and Toshiba payments

$1.7 billion: Amount SCE&G customers have paid in rate increases to bankroll the two new reactors

9: Rate hikes, so far, that SCE&G has passed on to its customers to pay for the now-abandoned reactors

18 percent: Portion of SCE&G bills that pay for the nuclear project

SANTEE COOPER

$4 billion: Amount borrowed by Santee Cooper, which will have to be paid by ratepayers or taxpayers

$540 million: Amount Santee Cooper customers have paid in rate increases to bankroll the two new reactors

5: Rate hikes, so far, that Santee Cooper has passed on to its customers to pay for the now-abandoned reactors

8 percent: Portion of Santee Cooper bills that pay for the nuclear project

Future SCE&G rate increases*

State law, at 58-33-280, allows SCE&G to request “revised rates” annually during construction of a nuclear facility. These are in addition to normal rate increases and, unlike normal rate increases, are nearly impossible for the PSC to reject.

Nov. 27, 2016: Date of SCE&G’s most recent rate increase

Aug. 1, 2017: Date SCE&G filed its most recent notice of intent to raise rates

Sept. 1, 2017: Earliest SCE&G could file the details of new rates, called a revised rate petition. An SCE&G spokesman says no decision has been made yet as to whether the company will actually file that document.

Feb. 1, 2018: Date new rates would go into effect if SCE&G files a revised rate petition on Sept. 1.

* Santee Cooper’s board of directors voted Aug. 11 not to raise rates anymore for the foreseeable future.

SC energy providers

Santee Cooper serves about 1 million customers, which it says translates into about 2 million people. It has 174,000 retail customers, 26 military and large industrial customers and four wholesale customers, which in turn provide power to more than 764,000 individual and business customers

Duke Energy has 733,000 customers

SCE&G has 698,000 customers

How a project is abandoned

S.C. Code Section 58-33-220(G). If the utility decides to abandon the project after issuance of a prudency determination under this section, then the preconstruction costs related to that project may be deferred, with AFUDC* being calculated on the balance, and may be included in rates in the utility’s next general rate proceeding or revised rates proceeding, provided that as to the decision to abandon the plant, the utility shall bear the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the decision was prudent. Without in any way limiting the effect of Section 58-33-225(D), recovery of capital costs and the utility’s cost of capital associated with them may be disallowed only to the extent that the failure by the utility to anticipate or avoid the allegedly imprudent costs, or to minimize the magnitude of the costs, was imprudent considering the information available at the time that the utility could have acted to avoid or minimize the costs. Pending an order in the general rate proceeding or revised rates proceeding, the utility, at its discretion, may commence to amortize to cost of service the balance of the preconstruction costs related to the abandoned project over a period equal to the period during which the costs were incurred, or five years, whichever is greater.

* ‘AFUDC’ means the allowance for funds used during construction of a plant calculated according to regulatory accounting principles.

S.C. Code Section 58-33-280(K). Where a plant is abandoned after a base load review order approving rate recovery has been issued, the capital costs and AFUDC related to the plant shall nonetheless be recoverable under this article provided that the utility shall bear the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the decision to abandon construction of the plant was prudent. Without limiting the effect of Section 58-33-275(A), recovery of capital costs and the utility’s cost of capital associated with them may be disallowed only to the extent that the failure by the utility to anticipate or avoid the allegedly imprudent costs, or to minimize the magnitude of the costs, was imprudent considering the information available at the time that the utility could have acted to avoid or minimize the costs. The commission shall order the amortization and recovery through rates of the investment in the abandoned plant as part of an order adjusting rates under this article.

More information

Here are some other pieces I’ve written about this that you might find helpful:

These are the people who brought us the SCE&G/Santee Cooper nuclear debacle

Here’s who voted to give SCE&G a blank check

Carter’s departure doesn’t fix the problems at Santee Cooper. These 2 changes could.

How ‘waste not, want not’ became ‘spend more, profit more’

SCE&G nuclear fiasco: It’s complicated. Here are some explanations.

SCE&G law could cost you more than you imagine

South Carolina’s bizarre government might be driving up your power rates

Ms. Scoppe writes editorials and columns for The State. Reach her at cscoppe@thestate.com or (803) 771-8571 or follow her on Twitter or like her on Facebook @CindiScoppe.

  Comments