2012 Nerve Story: Critics Question Rate Increases for Nuclear Plant
In 2012, an intern at The Nerve asked editor Rick Brundrett if she could do a story on a utility law called the Base Load Review Act. Katie Geer wanted to explore the law that allowed SCANA to charge customers up front to build two nuclear plants.
Back then, no one was writing much about the V.C. Summer project, much less the complicated law behind the financing. But a journalism student at The Nerve saw something worth exploring, and the result was an article that was revealing and prescient.
This article – published five years ago – raised red flags about the laws, the process and purpose behind the multi-billion dollar nuclear fiasco.
Geer nails the point in her opener:
“A state law that allows utilities to charge their customers years in advance for the construction of a nuclear plant is being used to fleece ratepayers for an expansion project at the V.C. Summer nuclear plant in Fairfield County, critics contend.”
Pretty straightforward. A few more highlights you’ll see in this 2012 Nerve story:
- The total rate increase was projected at 37 percent over the life of the project – that estimate was before the cost overruns were exposed.
- As of 2012, SCANA’s rates had been raised four times. There would be five more hikes between then and the project’s abandonment in 2017.
- The timeline in 2012 was for the first plant to go live in 2017, and the second in 2018.
- SCANA projected 3,000 construction jobs and between 600-800 “permanent jobs” upon completion.
- SCANA reported higher company earnings as a result of rate hikes.
- Opponents of the nuclear project went on the record with concerns that ratepayers would be stuck with a massive bill if the project wasn’t completed.
- Santee Cooper was moving to decrease their share of the VC Summer project from 45 percent to 20 percent. The state-owned utility has since stated that they didn’t need the extra energy capacity from the plants.
- A senator who co-sponsored the Base Load Review Act defended the law as necessary to attract industry, assure businesses South Carolina could supply them with energy – not a word about affordable energy for South Carolina families!
- When the senator was asked if the rate increases were justified, he conceded that there might have been “some misuse of the privileges.” Five years later, lawmakers claim they had no idea anything was wrong.
The 2012 story:
“A state law that allows utilities to charge their customers years in advance for the construction of a nuclear plant is being used to fleece ratepayers for an expansion project at the V.C. Summer nuclear plant in Fairfield County, critics contend.
Last month, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission gave approval to Cayce-based South Carolina Electric & Gas Co., which owns 55 percent of the plant, and state-owned utility Santee Cooper, a 45-percent owner, to build two reactors at the plant near Jenkinsville, about 30 miles northwest of Columbia.
The first of the two 1,117-megawatt reactors is expected to begin operating in 2017, with the second to go online in 2018, utility officials said this month. The project is expected to involve up to 3,000 construction workers over the next three or four years, with 600 to 800 permanent jobs in place when the new units are in operation, according to SCE&G.
Total cost of the project is estimated at approximately $9.8 billion.” Click here to continue reading.