Lowcountry residents concerned about high electric bills

August 11, 2015

By Mayci Mcleod (wach video here)

CHARLESTON, SC – The AARP and South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce voiced their concerns Tuesday about a plans for SCE&G to increase rates. In 2007, the state passed a law allowing SCE&G to raise rates to help pay for two new nuclear reactors. The reactors are supposed to reduce overall cost to consumers, but rates are up now to pay for the construction. It is costing more to build the reactors than SCE&G originally predicted, so they are asking to raise rates again.

Frank Knapp Jr., President and CEO of SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce, says, “Consumers will be expected to continue to pay higher and higher electric rates well beyond what they were told. And every dollar SCE&G customers pay above original projections is a dollar that doesn’t go to their local economies and small businesses today.”

Local consumers are already saying rates are too high and have seen significant spikes in their electric bills recently. News 2 posed the questions about significant electric bill rates in the Lowcountry on our Facebook page Tuesday morning and by 5pm had over 350 comments and even more private messages about the issue. One local family says they are doing everything they can think of and rates are still rising.

The Barfield family was in for a shock when they opened their July electric bill and saw it was more than $400.

Nathan Barfield says, “We have people in our neighborhood whose energy bill is even higher than ours, $450 plus. So to me, it doesn’t seem fair, it doesn’t seem accurate, it doesn’t seem right.”

He says once the bill hit the $200 mark, the family started looking at ways to save energy, but the amount of kilowatt hours SCE&G says they are using is still rising.

Barfield says, “In April, it was at 1500, to almost 2800 just two months later. And we’ve done absolutely nothing to inflect that kind of change.”

He says, in fact, they’ve taken significant steps to conserve, so he expected the bill to be lower, not $200 higher.

Barfield says, “We unplug anything we’re not using, we try to use energy efficient bulbs, we turn the thermostat up to 78 or 80 and it makes it kind of uncomfortable to sit in your own house and kind of sweat. We try to grill out so we’re not running the oven as much, we try to reduce laundry as much as we can so we’re not using the washing machine as much, and it still hasn’t made a difference, the bill has continued to climb.”

He says they even invested in an energy efficient washer and dryer, have cut back on TV watching, and cover the windows. News 2 reached out to SCE&G to find out what could be causing this, and they said it’s typical for energy rates to spike in the summertime and sent a list of energy-saving tips. Barfield says his family is already following every suggestion on that list, nothing helps.

He says, “A utility bill is something that you can’t really not pay, so we have to cut in other areas. We have to cut on food, we have to cut on clothing for school clothes, we have to cut back in every other aspect you can cut at because you can’t go without power, and they know that and I think they use that against you.”

News 2 also reached out to SCE&G about the Barfield family’s specific issue. Representatives from SCE&G say they have no answers about what else could be causing the spike in cost and plan to go out to perform an energy audit and inspect the home soon.

SCE&G has some tips for conserving energy and reducing your power bill in the summer:

  • Set thermostat to 78
    • Turn your thermostat up when you leave the house
    • When you return, bring it down one degree at a time, let it reach that level and do it again, not all at once.
  • Use ceiling fans
  • Check air filters (and change when needed)
  • Unplug appliances you aren’t using—coffee pots, toaster ovens
  • Close your blinds and curtains to prevent radiant heat through the windows
  • Make sure your vents are open in areas you want to cool and they aren’t obstructed
  • Caulk old windows
  • Weather stripping (can you close the door and see sunlight coming through the cracks?)
  • Servicing HVAC system (running improperly can use extra power)
  • Insulation (cool air is escaping through attic, etc., if not isulated)
  • Duct work sealed properly


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