How did we get here? SCE&G customers still set to pay for VC Summer construction costs

(Source: WIS)
Published: Jan. 3, 2019 at 8:45 AM EST
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The merger between Dominion Energy and SCANA has been finalized, but local organizations are still appealing conditions of that deal.

Merger conditions include keeping SCANA headquarters in Cayce, dropping the $1,000 cash refund Dominion was advertising, and customers continuing to pay for the failed project over the next 20 years.

AARP is just one of several groups that have submitted appeals to the Public Service Commission to try and make some changes to those merger conditions. AARP representatives said they want to give a voice to customers who don’t have the money or resources to keep continue paying for this project.

But how did we get to this point? With 104 votes favorable votes from the House, the Base Load Review Act headed to the governor’s desk in 2007. That bill allowed utility companies to charge customers for power plant construction costs instead of paying for it up front themselves.

“It gives no protection for ratepayers,” said Teresa Arnold, the State Director for AARP. “It pretty much authorizes rate increases with very little review.”

With what many have referred to as a ‘blank check’ handed over from legislators, SCE&G started the development of the VC Summer expansion, with the construction costs coming right out of your accounts over the course of nine rate increases.

“It’s almost as if someone were to come up to me, stick a gun to my head, and rob me,” said SCE&G customer Sandra Porter. “I think it is very unfortunate that you have these business tycoons and the higher powers that are able to ride off into the sunset and leave us common people holding the bag for your mistakes.”

SCE&G customers have already paid about $2.2 billion for the expansion. With the deal that’s currently on the table, you’ll keep paying.

Current conditions of the SCANA-Dominion merger lock you in to pay for construction costs of the failed project for the next 20 years.

Back in May, your average residential SCE&G bill was $147.70 with construction costs included. Under this plan, that bill would be $125.26 with included construction costs locked in at a set rate. So in a year, you’ll be saving about $270.

AARP argues that customers shouldn’t have to pay a dime more than they already have.

“The most innocent party, are the ratepayers, and they’re the ones that will continue to be paying,” Arnold said. “It’s shocking that ratepayers would continue to be expected to pay for something that will never be used.”

AARP has joined ranks with other groups to appeal conditions listed in the merger…now customers are just hoping someone will listen.

“It’s very unfair, and I just pray that we are able to pull together and to be able to reverse the decision,” Porter said. “It’s costing us.”

The Base Load Review Act has been repealed, so utility customers shouldn’t have to worry about this happening again.

We’ve reached out to several of the politicians who originally voted to approve the Base Load Review Act, but we haven’t heard anything back. If things push through with the current plan, the average residential household will pay about $1,700 for the expansion that never generated energy for customers.

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