South Carolina Electric & Gas likely to seek another rate hike
COLUMBIA — South Carolina Electric & Gas customers can expect to pay more for their power in the coming months as planned rate increases go into effect. The company also likely will ask for another rate increase that would go into effect next year, officials said during an earnings call with investment analysts this week.
Jimmy Addison, chief financial officer for SCE&G parent Scana Corp., said the Cayce-based utility is considering filing a notice of its intent to raise rates with the S.C. Public Service Commission by the end of May.
“That just starts the process,” he said.
After 30 days, the company can file for the increase. If approved, the rate hike would go into effect six months later. That means SCE&G’s customers would not see their rates rise until after the beginning of next year.
The last step of a rate hike approved two years ago will go into effect in July, boosting customers’ rates $1.14 a month for every 1,000 kilowatt hours used.
The company received approval two years ago for a 4.88 percent increase, said Eric Boomhower, spokesman for the utility. That increase was phased in, starting with a 2.5 percent rate hike in July 2010 and followed by a 1.2 percent increase last July. The remaining 1.18 percent kicks in this July.
Also, another annual rate increase to help pay the cost of constructing two nearly $10 billion nuclear plants will start in October. But the cost of that increase depends on the amount spent on the nuclear project in the preceding year and is not yet known.
By paying for some of the costs of nuclear construction now, customers are expected to save an estimated $4 billion over the life of the plants, Boomhower said.
Meanwhile, SCANA’s earnings fell 7 percent in the first three months of the year to 93 cents a share, from $1 during the same period a year ago due to unusually warm weather, which kept customers’ heating costs down. Earnings fell to $121 million for the quarter from $128 million during the same period last year.
A weather normalization program, which spreads heating and cooling costs out over the year despite temperature fluctuations, helped keep earnings fairly steady for SCE&G, which provides service to 668,000 electric and 319,000 natural gas customers in South Carolina.
The main reason for the decline in earnings was a drop in natural gas use by the company’s 489,000 Georgia customers, officials said.