August 7, 2017
By Loren Thomas
Columbia, SC (WLTX) – A South Carolina law, enacted ten years ago, is coming back to haunt lawmakers.
The Base Load Review Act (BLRA) allowed utility companies to raise rates to help fund new nuclear or coal plants during construction.
“The purpose was to help utilities finance a carbon free, ie. nuclear, base load generation plant,” says Representative Kirkman Finlay, R-Richland County.
In 2007 the general assembly voted to enact the BLRA. “Unfortunately, the net result of the Base Load Review Act was a blank check to build financially unviable nuclear plants,” says Rep. Finlay.
Representative Finlay has been working on a bill to help stop the increasing rates.
House Bill 4022, which is currently stuck in a House committee, would prevent utility rate increases under the BLRA beyond previously approved cost.
Since 2008, SCANA, the parent company for South Carolina Electric and Gas, has raised rates nine times to fund construction at the V.C. Summer nuclear plant.
Frank Knapp, CEO and president of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce is a proponent for the proposed bill. “What it did was put a financial incentive on the utility in the future to stay on budget and if they didn’t then some risk went to their shareholders,” says Knapp. “The general assembly is going to have to come back and make the decision, do they want to fix the base load review act or do they simply want to get rid of the base load review act.”
H.B. 4022 would give a fix for future nuclear energy companies, like Duke Energy.
Currently they are debating if they will begin construction on two nuclear reactors at the William States Lee plant in Cherokee County.
Representative Finlay says he hopes the general assembly won’t rush to a quick fix. “Let’s take our time, understand what went wrong here and move through fixing the previous projects that we’ve got, because if we get in a hurry we truly could make a 9 billion dollar mistake an $18 billion mistake.”
The bill is currently in a house committee and could be revisited when lawmakers return next year.