SCE&G to raise electricity rates

CAYCE, S.C. --- South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. will raise electricity rates by 2.3 percent this month to help pay for a planned expansion at its nuclear power plant in Jenkinsville.

Regulators approved the increase last week for bills going out on or after Oct. 30, the company said in a news release. The typical monthly bill of a customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity will increase about $3.

It's a slightly smaller increase than the company had requested in May after a state Supreme Court ruling said SCE&G could not charge customers for contingency costs. About $273,000 in contingency costs were taken out of the most recent request to recoup more than $47 million.

The utility has received approval for other rate increases to pay for capital improvements . In June, state regulators approved an increase of almost 5 percent in rates over three years to pay for federally mandated environmental improvements to its coal-fired plants and a backup dam near Columbia.

As part of negotiations to get that increase approved, SCE&G agreed to give credits to residents and small businesses that would delay the full impact of the increase until July 2012.

Those increases are separate from the nuclear increases, which were approved as a package deal in 2009. The Public Service Com­mission last year agreed to let SCE&G raise rates an average of 2 percent a year through 2019 to prepay the financing costs on its $4.5 billion share of the two new reactors.

"Paying financing costs while construction is ongoing lowers the cost of the new nuclear units and as a result reduces the amount customers will ultimately pay through rates," SCE&G President Kevin Marsh said in the company's news release.

SCE&G and state-owned utility Santee Cooper are planning two 1,117-megawatt nuclear electric-generating units at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station the two companies jointly operate. The company expects the first reactor to be on line in 2016 and the second to start operating in 2019.

The reactors still must be approved by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.