By R. Kevin Dietrich, Staff Writer, The State

South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. wants to create a new rate category for medium-size businesses such as supermarkets.
SCE&G, seeking to increase what it charges for electricity, has applied to the S.C. Public Service Commission to develop an “experimental rate” based on the amount of power used, the size of the user and ability to shift energy use to off-peak hours, spokesman Robin Montgomery said.
Last year, SCE&G applied to raise rates between 5.4 percent for large industrial customers to 14 percent on small companies.
Medium-size businesses were to see a 12 percent increase, but the new classification would cut rates by about 4 percent, Montgomery said.
The Public Service Commission could decide on the experimental rate and SCE&G’s overall proposed rate hike Tuesday.
The S.C. Merchants Association, which represents supermarkets, has agreed to drop its opposition to the increase, according to this week’s filing with the commission.
Tim Wilkes, chairman of the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce, said he’s unhappy that medium-sized businesses have cut a deal with SCE&G.
“It appears the only two groups who have not been invited to the table to negotiate are consumers and small businesses,” he said.
Residential consumers would see their rates increase 7 percent if the filing is approved.
SCE&G said the rate increases will help cover the costs of boosting generation capacity and cutting plant pollution.
The experimental rate will be implemented initially for four years, the filing said. SCE&G will notify customers that are eligible for the new rate. 

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