SCE&G offers proposal that would lower rates, buy new plant

SCE&G proposes gas, solar for Summer replacement

South Carolina Electric & Gas Co (SCE&G), the main subsidiary of Scana Corp, said it will cut electricity rates to placate customers angered at having to bear the cost of the company's abandoned V.C. Summer nuclear project. Kissam said SCE&G will ask regulators immediately to reduce customer rates by 3.5 percent, with company shareholders bearing remaining net construction costs for the next 50 years. More than half a dozen lawsuits have been filed, some by SCE&G customers who have been charged almost $2 billion toward interest on the company's debt, via a series of rate hikes since 2009, without any power being generated.

SCANA needs that electricity - the plant will produce about 40 percent of the power that was to come from the abandoned twin nuclear reactors - and SCE&G customers need something in return for the $1.7 billion they have been charged for the nuclear project, Kissam said.

SCE&G plans to cut residential electric rates to March 2015 levels.

"We've heard our customers' frustrations about paying for a power plant and having nothing to show for it", said Keller Kissam, SCE&G's president of retail operations who will become its president and chief operating officer on January 1, 2018.

A SC state official said earlier this year that customers had paid $1.4 billion for the plant, which comes to about 18% of a typical residential bill.

V.C. Summer, which was majority-owned by Scana, was ditched in July after estimated costs to build two nuclear reactors spiraled to as much as $24 billion.

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That amounts to about $27 per month for each ratepayer, charges that continue despite the project's failure. Federal officials have also been probing the project and how the company handled it. That would put rates about where they were in March 2015, he said. That would cost SCE&G about $37 million per month, or almost $450 million per year. The giant power company also announced it will purchase a gas-fired power plant in place of the reactor-generated energy. On Thursday, Lucas said lawmakers would continue to pursue legislative fixes, saying the company's proposal "provides further proof that SCANA has consistently prioritized the company's profits over protecting its consumers". Previous rate increases have allowed the company to recover hundreds of millions of dollars in construction costs. The company said it will also add about 100 MWe of large-scale solar capacity to its system. Vogtle's co-owners, led by Georgia Power, in August filed a recommendation with the Georgia Public Service Commission to complete construction of the new units as the most economic choice for customers.

Since July 31, when SCE&G and Santee Cooper chose to halt construction, SCANA's stock has tumbled about 30 percent. The company's CEO and COO have already announced plans to step down.

The nuclear surcharge on SCE&G customers' bills will gradually decline over time - down to 9 percent within three years, Kissam said.

Critics of the overall project weren't impressed.

Tom Clements of the environmental group Friends of the Earth said Thursday the proposal "is not so good for SCE&G ratepayers".

State Rep. Peter McCoy, a Charleston Republican who chaired the House committee that investigated the V.C. Summer fiasco, said SCE&G customers deserve better.

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