A huge hike to cover troubled nuclear reactors

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Santee Cooper proposes raising residential rates by almost 10 percent

By ROBERT MEYEROWITZ

Santee Cooper, the state-owned utility, is notifying customers that it wants to raise its rates by more than 9 percent over the next several years, in part to cover “costs associated with nuclear construction.”

The reference is to its share of the $11 billion price to build two nuclear reactors in Jenkinsville, 25 miles northwest of Columbia. Since its chief contractor, Westinghouse, went bankrupt, the utility and its partner, SCE&G, have been trying to determine the partly-built project’s fate.

Meanwhile, it wants to recoup costs from its customers.

Santee Cooper’s 12-member board, appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate, will vote on the increase at its December 11 meeting.

Unlike SCE&G, a private, monopoly utility which is regulated by South Carolina’s Public Service Commission, and must seek approval for rate increases, Santee Cooper, as part of the government, can unilaterally set and raise its rates.

Under its proposal, residential electricity rates would increase 4.6 percent in 2018 and another 4.9 percent in 2019.

Rates for its average customer would go from $127.60 to $133.80 a month in 2018, and then to $139.90 in 2019, it says.

That would bring the price to $0.1399 per kilowatt hour.

The average retail price for electricity in the state had been $0.1257 per kilowatt hour. Multiplied by average consumption of 1,380 kilowatt hours per month, it made South Carolina’s electric costs for consumers the highest on average in the country.

That number had been driven up by SCE&G, which, after eight rate increases to cover its costs and profit associated with the construction of the nuclear reactors, is charging its 258,000 residential electricity customers $0.14753 per kilowatt hour.

Santee Cooper had been charging its 177,000 residential customers a rate far below the average. With an increase well above it, South Carolina could lead the nation by a wide margin in average residential electricity costs — and the troubled nuclear-reactor project seems to be a big part of the reason.

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  • cnb

    I don’t really have a dog in this fight, but I can’t see how you can charge somebody, it’s customers, for something they can’t use. The article also stated that SCE&G has had eight previous rate increases to cover the cost of the nuclear reactors. Why do they need more. Seems like this is another Board that should be fired and news one elected.

  • How SC Operates

    An interesting peripheral tidbit. The last two directors of DHEC were basically selected by the head of this Santee Cooper board.

    • cnb

      And the band played on.

  • Paxus Calta

    I pity the rate payers in SC. The utility knows full well that there is no chance this project will be completed under this proposed budget. Toshiba (Westinghouse’s parent) is limited their commitment to $3.8 billion to other pair of unfinished AP 1000 reactors, SC is not going to get a better deal. And while this is more than the cost the largest solar array operating in the country, it will not be even 1/3 the total cost of this project. As this article points out this is the 8th rate increase. SC pays more for electricity than any other state and this is connected to nuclear power in the state. What they don’t say is the average reactor constructed in the US is over 200% over budget and 4 years late. These reactors will certainly be years late (they already are). But the utility is still playing with numbers like $11 billion. It will more likely be $20 billion and SC rate payers will be forced to cover the huge loses on a poorly conceived project which can’t be stopped because of utility company executives and share holders are the only ones who matter.

  • Sharon Pollard

    South Carolina is very expensive to live in. Horry County we pay 9% sales tax and 9.5%-10.5% Hospitality tax when you dine out. Our school board is the highest paid in the state and county council has a $240,000 fund just for them to spend on pet projects! until people wakeup and unseat these tax and spenders news like this will continue until we living here will exit the state. I have been here 2.5 years from the north and I guarantee you SC. is on the same track as what we moved away from. The only saving grace is property taxes and watch them increase soon! We just had a $.12 gas tax and fee increase. We are governed by people that could care less about you! Drain the swamp here too!

    • Lyn Anderson

      Well, Horry County is expensive anyway. Greenville County pays 6% sales tax and property taxes are reasonable. Spartanburg property taxes are even lower.

      • Ryan H Monroe

        All in the demographics. Greenville is very productive with very small areas that depend on the govt.

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