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South Carolina’s state-owned utility drops plans for rate hikes for failed nuclear project

Utility drops rate hike plans for failed nuclear project, By SEANNA ADCOX New Jersey Herald : Aug. 11, 2017 COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Millions of customers who have been footing the bill for years for a now-abandoned nuclear power project may get a temporary reprieve from rising bills, as South Carolina’s state-owned utility dropped plans Friday for two consecutive rate hikes.

Santee Cooper’s board canceled the approval process for average increases of 3.5 percent in 2018 and 3.9 percent in 2019. A vote on the requested hikes had been set for December.

They would have been the utility’s sixth and seventh hikes since 2009 for the now-abandoned expansion of V.C. Summer Nuclear Station north of Columbia. Santee Cooper and South Carolina Electric & Gas decided July 31 to halt construction on two new reactors they’d already jointly spent $10 billion to build, much of that paid by customers.

“Conditions have changed materially since the rate process began,” said Santee Cooper board Chairman Leighton Lord.

But the cancellation doesn’t necessarily mean rates won’t eventually rise for the more than 2 million customers served by Santee Cooper, which provides power directly and through local electric cooperatives. The board directed the utility’s staff to come back in October with a new financial plan.

“Santee Cooper will still need to cover costs related to our load, other system improvements and environmental compliance,” said Santee Cooper CEO Lonnie Carter. “We will tighten our belts and continue to look for ways we can be more efficient to make up the balance.”

Carter said the state-owned utility would have had to raise rates by 41 percent to continue with the project.

Friday’s unanimous vote comes amid a backlash from the public and lawmakers.

The scuttled nuclear project already accounts for 18 percent of SCE&G’s residential electricity bills and more than 8 percent of Santee Cooper’s. SCE&G is seeking permission from the Public Service Commission to recoup an additional $5 billion over 60 years. Those regulators approved all nine of SCE&G’s rate hike requests since 2009. Legislators have publicly warned commissioners they may be fired.

Three of those commissioners are up for re-election early next year by the Legislature. Seven people, including the incumbents, filed for the three slots by Friday’s noon deadline. The commission has no authority over the state-owned utility…….http://www.njherald.com/article/20170811/AP/308119851#

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August 14, 2017 - Posted by | business and costs, politics, USA

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