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Public Service Commission denies SCE&G motion to dismiss rate relief request

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The S.C. Public Service Commission denied S.C. Electric and Gas’ motion to dismiss a request by the Office of Regulatory Staff for rate relief and ordered a hearing to consider the ORS motion.

The ORS request seeks an immediate rate reduction of SCE&G’s electric retail revenues by approximately $445 million annually, according to a statement by SCE&G parent company SCANA.

ORS “met the threshold to allow the matter to continue before the Commission,” according to Wednesday’s PSC directive. The organization also instructed ORS to perform an audit assessing the reasonableness of SCE&G’s rates and the potential effect of the removal of those revenues within 30 days.

“We welcome the ORS examination of our books and records to evaluate our revenue requirements,” Jimmy Addison, who is currently SCANA’s CFO and will become its CEO on Jan. 1, said in a statement. “We are also encouraged by the Commission’s decision to move forward with a hearing that will allow for the full development and review of the relevant facts and issues before making such a critical decision on this matter, which will ultimately have great ramifications on not just SCANA and SCE&G but also on SCE&G’s customers.

“We continue to believe working toward a collaborative and reasonable resolution is in the best interest of all stakeholders.”

 The PSC also consolidated related filings from the Friends of the Earth and the Sierra Club with the ORS request.

The ORS request is in response to the abandoned V.C. Summer nuclear reactor project. SCE&G, which owns 55% of the project, and state-owned utility Santee Cooper, owner of the other 45%, sank $9 billion into the project before pulling out following contractor Westinghouse’s bankruptcy declaration in April. The controversial Base Load Review Act allowed SCANA to seek and receive nine rate increases while the reactors were still being built, and 18% of SCE&G customers’ bills are currently financing the costs of the abandoned reactors.

In November, SCE&G proposed approximately $4.8 billion in rate relief to residential and industrial customers, which SCANA said would reduce annual rates by approximately $90 million, or 3.5%.

Reaction was unenthusiastic, with S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster noting the proposal did not stop charging ratepayers for V.C. Summer or refund money paid toward the project. Speaker of the House Jay Lucas charged that the proposal showed SCANA prioritized profits above customers and pressed ahead with the six-bill Utility Ratepayer Protection package, which the House Judiciary Committee began debating on Nov. 21. 

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December 21, 2017

SCG&E should be required by PSC to refund all collected surcharges from customers associated with Nuclear project. SCE&G stock dividends should be suspended, management bonuses stopped, and all raises caped at inflation rate until all surcharges have been repaid, all profits should be subject to being included in the refund rate.