SCE&G rate hike questioned by customers, business leaders

By Taylor Kearna | WIS-TV

Published February 17, 2010

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) – As many struggle to pay bills, SCE&G is asking for a rate hike of close to 10 percent.

It’s estimated that the proposed hike would cost the average customer about $140 more a year.

This hike comes after the company got the go ahead last year to raise rates by about 2 and a half percent annually for the next decade.  That hike was to help pay for the company’s nuclear operation in Fairfield County.

This proposed hike has customers and business leaders asking why now?

The answer, the company says,  is in federally mandated environmental guidelines. Upgrades to SCE&G’s Eastover and Williams coal-fire plants cost the company more than $500 million.

Spokesman Robert Yanity says they planned to apply for the hikes last year but didn’t given the state of the economy.

“We hoped that the economy would turn around and unfortunately it hasn’t, so there’s never a good time to raise rates, but at this point we cant put it off any longer,” said Yanity.

Frank Knapp is the president of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce. He calls the rate hikes “excessive.”

“Small businesses in this state simply don’t need any more expenses,” said Knapp.

Knapp is fighting the proposed hike and plans on taking it to the state Public Service Commission — the regulatory body that will have the final say. He says there’s more to the rate hike than environmental standards.

Meanwhile, retiree and SCE&G customer Bill Davenport says he’s prepared to pay — to a point.

“I always try and meet someone in the middle,” said Davenport. “If it’s something that we’re spending money on now that’ll help us in the future and helps my grandchildren, then why not invest in it?”

The Public Service Commission should rule on the proposed hike in late May or early June. If it’s approved, it’ll take effect with 3 incremental raises of about 3 percent starting in July.

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