Utility giant SEC&G misled state, customers

Utility giant SEC&G misled state, customers

Lexington County Chronicle
February 25, 2016

By Jerry Belune

A business leader believes S.C. Electric & Gas sold lawmakers a false bill of goods.   The Cayce-based power company told state regulators and lawmakers that charging customers to pay for its two new nuclear plants would save money.

It hasn’t, S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce President Frank Knapp said. It actually cost SCE&G customers 12.5% more than claimed, he said.

Knapp compared SCE&G’s energy efficiency claims and low cost proposal to a used car salesman’s pitch.

“What if a salesman sells you a car by bragging about the car’s energy efficiency, how reliable it is, how comfortable it is, how good it looks and how affordable,” Knapp said.

“But after you sign the papers you discover that the salesman ripped you off with a financing plan that increases the cost of the car by 12.5% more than he told you. You still have the car with all its good features but you are paying more than you needed to. That’s where we are with the nuclear plants.”

In 2009, SEC&G asked the Public Service Commission to approve its nuclear project with good features for customers, he said.

But with the deal approved, SCE&G has raised construction costs by 12.5% with more expected.

Apparently the state law permitting this was written to prohibit the PSC from saying “no” to SCE&G on constructing costs and financing charges, he said.

The law gives SCE&G the ability to increase the construction costs whenever it wants even if those increased costs result from bad business decisions.

Knapp said SCE&G can:

  • Pass those costs which include profits and expenses such as Zumba classes for employees to its customers.
  • Raise rates every year, 17% so far, to pay construction financing charges.

“It’s a license to steal from the consumers, even though the final product is desired,” he said. “That’s why the law in question, The Base Load Review Act, needs to be amended to better protect the consumers from paying more than we need to for construction of these and future nuclear plants.”