Energy deregulation hype busted

In the next several weeks you will be reading and hearing more about the South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G) proposed overall electric rate hike of 6.61%.  Many of you will complain that if we just deregulated the energy market and stop forcing residential and commercial customers to get their energy from SCE&G, Duke, Progress or a co-op, competition would bring down rates.

That’s what they did in New York in the late 1990s.  So it is instructive that the N.Y. Public Service Commission (PSC) recently undertook a review of exactly how their state’s deregulation of the energy market affected what customers paid.

You can read the whole Associated Press story on this review here.  But if you want a quick synopsis of the report, here it is.

An initial review by the PSC found some New Yorkers, including many in low-income neighborhoods, paid much more than if they had stayed with the big utility companies. They were sold on promises of lower utility rates, the report found.

The Chairman of the N.Y. PSC is quoted as saying about deregulation, “it’s working very well for large industrial customers and sophisticated shoppers. The concern is residential and small commercial customers who don’t have the insight or information they need.”

We regulate utilities in South Carolina.  Yes, that means that power companies have monopolies but it also means that consumers get to influence how our PSC rules on proposed rate increase requests. 

I’ve already started writing about the current SCE&G rate hike proposal and soon I might have some negative things to say about it.  But this won’t mean that the grass is greener on the other side of the regulatory fence. 

If you don’t like what SCE&G is trying to sell to the PSC, speak up and let the PSC know how you feel about the proposed SCE&G rate hike by November 27th.  There are three public hearings. All public hearings will start at 6 pm.

–Wednesday, October 24th, at the Aiken Technical College, Amphitheater (Room 701), 226 Jefferson David Highway, Graniteville, SC.

–Monday, November 5th, International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1422, 1142 Morrison Drive, Charleston, SC.

–Tuesday, November 27th, Public Service Commission of South Carolina, 101 Executive Center Drive, Columbia, SC.

You can check out the SCE&G filing (NO. 2012-218-E) at the PSC website, If you would like to comment by mail, send it to SC Office of Regulatory Staff, 1401 Main Street, Suite 900, Columbia, SC 29201.

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