From The Daniel Island News
Final hearing for SCE&G proposed rate increase slated for Nov. 27
By Elizabeth Bush
Nov 20, 2012 - 11:12:48 AM
You may very well ring in the New Year with a higher electric bill, if a pending SCE&G rate increase is approved. The proposed 6.61 percent hike represents an overall increase in retail electric base rates, according to a SCE&G press release, and is primarily being fueled by rising costs associated with system upgrades and regulatory compliance.
“Since our last rate filing, we’ve spent nearly $300 million on upgrades and improvements to our electric transmission and distribution system in order to remain in compliance with federal law and to continue providing safe and reliable service to our customers,” stated Keller Kissam, SCE&G’s president of retail operations. “We’ve also spent millions of dollars putting environmental equipment in service at our Wateree Station power plant to comply with federal air emission standards, and spent another $30 million on other environmental upgrades and projects at our various power plants.”
Other contributing factors are the company’s $16 million annual increase in property taxes and the end of a key, off-system sales contract, added Kissam. A natural gas-fired plant, known as the Jasper Station, was put into service in 2004 with extra capacity. The company was able to sell off that excess, but the contract to do so expires at the end of 2012, making available 250 megawatts of generation for customers.
“This will assist us in replacing power that will no longer be available to our customers as we carry out plans to retire some of our older coal generation,” said Kissam. “While retiring that coal generation will help reduce annual expenses by about $6 million, the net impact of replacing that power is about $23 million.”
A public hearing on the proposed increase was held on Monday, November 6, in Charleston by the S.C. Public Service Commission (PSC). According to published reports, several citizens expressed concern about the hike, citing what they see as a continual raising of rates by SCE&G over the last five years. In fact, according to SCE&G spokesperson Eric Boomhower, rates have increased about a dozen times since 2008, but “close to half” of those increases were sparked by rising fuel costs.
“If (fuel cost) goes up, we adjust up,” said Boomhower. “If it goes down, we adjust down…From our point of view, it would be great if it went down every time. We can’t control that. We have to pay what we have to pay. We do have strategies to be as efficient as possible in how we purchase that.”
Two more public hearings are planned, one on November 26 at 2 p.m. and another on November 27 at 6 p.m. Both will take place at 101 Executive Center Drive in Columbia, but public input will only be heard during the latter session. Commissioners will then consider testimony given during the hearings and announce their decision about the rate hike by December 29.
The SCE&G press release further states that if the PSC approves a requested fuel cost decrease and the base rate increase as filed, rates would increase in January 2013 as follows.
*Residential customers – 4.85%
*Small commercial customers – 1.36%
*Medium commercial customers – 2.78%
*Large commercial/industrial customers – 3.69%
The above rates, explained Boomhower, reflect a fuel adjustment due to the lower cost of wholesale natural gas.
“When we filed for this rate increase, we also asked the PSC to allow us to expedite the benefits of that reduced natural gas price to our customers, by doing a mid-period adjustment,” he said. “…It’s an overall 6.61 percent increase, but if the entire filing is approved, the actual impact will be 4.85 percent because of reduced fuel cost…It’s one of those opportunities that has been rare of late, where we can actually see a decrease of fuel cost and are trying to get that to our customers.”
If the rate increase is granted, the monthly bill of a residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity would increase by $6.67.
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