S.C. residents invited to weigh in on pending rate increase

Hearing in Aiken scheduled for Oct. 24

By Sarita Chourey


South Carolinians will be able to speak out about a nearly 5 percent jump in their South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. bill this month.

A decision on the company’s request for a rate increase is pending before the South Carolina Public Service Commission.

The average monthly residential bill is $135.06 for SCE&G customers. If the state’s regulatory board approves the higher rates, the average bill would rise to $141.73, according to figures provided by the South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff.

In comparison, the average monthly residential bill for Duke Energy is $99.51 and for Progress Energy $100.77.

Scott said his office is still analyzing SCE&G’s application and would decide later whether to challenge any part of it. Consumers would see any changes in their January power bills.

SCE&G, a subsidiary of SCANA Corp., is applying for a 6.6 percent rate increase, but if a fuel-cost decrease stemming from a drop in the cost of wholesale natural gas is also approved, a residential customer’s monthly bill will be only 4.85 percent higher, said SCANA spokesman Eric Boomhower.

He said various factors are driving the company’s application for a rate increase.

“We’ve got increasingly strict federal laws requiring safety and reliability, and there’s a cost associated with complying with those,” he said Tuesday.

“Other companies also have to comply with the same mandates we’re talking about. I can’t speak to what their financial situations are. ... We’re not competing with them.”

There is no pending application for a rate increase from Duke or from Progress, said Dukes Scott, executive director of the S.C. Office of Regulatory Staff, on Tuesday.

Among SCE&G’s recent infrastructure expenditures: The company spent nearly $300 million on upgrades to its electric transmission and distribution system; in 2010, $283 million went to cover equipment that cut emissions at the Wateree Station to meet federal clean air requirements. Another $30 million for environmental upgrades was expended at other plants.

Boomhower also pointed to the company’s tax burden.

“We have increased taxes here in South Carolina that have also affected our need to go in for this,” he said. “In 2011, we paid about $128 million in property taxes in the state.”

A company news release says the increase totaled $16 million.

The Public Service Commission has scheduled three public hearings on SCE&G’s application, filed June 29, for permission to increase rates. All testimony will be given under oath. The local hearing will be at 6 p.m. Oct. 24 at Aiken Technical College, Amphitheater-Room 701, 2276 Jefferson Davis Highway, in Graniteville.



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