September 21, 2015

The Office of Regulatory Staff is taking a hard look at whether a law that allows rate hikes is fair for customers. (video)

Savannah Levins, WLTX

COLUMBIA, SC (WLTX)- You might have noticed your SCE&G bill has gone up every year for almost a decade now.

But now that the project is behind schedule and over budget, the Office of Regulatory Staff is taking a hard look at whether or not it’s fair for customers.The reason:.because customers are helping pay for the company’s nuclear reactor project.

“We still don’t know what the cost is gonna be,” said environmental activist Tom Clements. “We’re being forced under duress to pay for a project we’re getting nothing from.”

Clements says he’s glad the ORS has decided to look into the Base Load Review Act of 2007. It’s a law that allows SCE&G to issue annual rate increases in order to pay for a nuclear reactor project in Jenkinsville. “It basically puts all the risk of this nuclear project on the back of the rate payer, the customer,” Clements said.

President and CEO of the Small Business Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Frank Knapp was a key component in pressuring the ORS to investigate the law.  “Theoretically [the law] makes sense,” Knapp said, “but SCE&G has all these cost overruns, they’ve delayed it from 2016 to now 2020, and every year you’re going to have this 2.8% rate hike to pay for it. ”

Director of the Office of Regulatory Staff Dukes Scott says they will hire an independent accounting firm to conduct the review. “When you have the type of delay they’ve had and the budget increases we think its reasonable to give scrutiny to the process were utilizing to make sure it’s good,” Scott said. “We don’t have any question that the customer will benefit from us doing it this way, but we want an independent analysis.”

SGE&G spokesperson Eric Boomhower says he wants customers to know that the rate hikes now will pay off in the long run. “There’s never a time to see your bill go up and we understand that,” he said. “These units will provide our customers with the most reliable form of electricity today, to secure a clean future for South Carolina, and at the end of the day it’s just the best way to meet the needs of our customers.”

On Wednesday, the Public Service Commission will meet to consider SCE&G’s request for yet another annual rate hike.


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