Santee Cooper electric rates going up 7 percent over two years
Santee Cooper’s 164,000 electric customers in eastern South Carolina will see their bills rise 7 percent over two years, starting in December.
Santee Cooper rate hikes by class
Dec. 1, 2012
Municipal wholesale (Bamberg and Georgetown) 3.68%
Dec. 1, 2013
Municipal wholesale 4.84%
*Power sales are weighted by class to arrive at the average rate increase per year. The combined averages are divided by two to get the average of 3.5 percent per year.
Rates will rise an average 3.5 percent Dec. 1 and again on Dec. 1, 2013.
The state-owned utility’s board of directors on Tuesday approved the two-year rate hike in Columbia to help pay for the expansion of V.C. Summer Nuclear Station, which Santee Cooper co-owns with South Carolina Electric & Gas Co., and to meet the costs of new environmental regulations.
The proposed rate increase, a first since November 2009 and only the second since 1996, was announced in May. The board’s vote followed several public hearings over the summer in its direct customer-coverage area in Berkeley, Georgetown and Horry counties.
For the average home using about 1,000 kilowatt-hours of power, the electric bill will go up $5.60 per month the first year and an additional $8.29 per month the second year. The current average Santee Cooper residential electric bill is about $107.05 a month.
“I know that times remain tough for many of our customers,” Santee Cooper Chairman O.L. Thompson said. “The fact is, Santee Cooper has already cut or deferred $1.8 billion in capital expenses and approved other cost-saving measures the past two years. We are now at a point where we must increase revenues to ensure we can fulfill our statutory requirements to recover our costs, meet new environmental regulations and build generation that is important to South Carolina’s future.”
The utility reviewed an independent rate analysis, management’s proposal and public input before approving the rate hike, Thompson said.
Santee Cooper received 56 written comments, utility spokeswoman Laura Varn said.
Most of the ones from residential customers came from elderly and low-income customers, she said. Industries expressed concern that their rates remain globally competitive.
“Some slight modifications were made for different tiers of customers as a result,” Varn said.
The rate hike affects residential, commercial, industrial, municipal and lighting customers. It will not affect wholesale customers, such as electric cooperatives, who buy their power from the Moncks Corner-based utility.
Though the average rate increase is 3.5 percent in December each year, rates vary for different classes of customers.
For instance, in December residential customers will see a 5.3 percent rate increase while large industries will see a .63 rate reduction.
In December 2013, the electric rate for residential customers will go up 6.61 percent while that for large industries will rise 4.22 percent.
Without the rate increase, Santee Cooper officials said they would fall $17 million short of revenue in 2013 and another $31 million behind in 2014.
Santee Cooper owns 45 percent of the new $10 billion nuclear project in Fairfield County and its portion amounts to about $4.5 billion. The utility is trying to divest itself of 25 percent of its stake in the nuclear project after its biggest customer, Central Electric Power Cooperative, decided in 2009 to shift 1,000 megawatts of its load to Duke Energy beginning in 2013.
Less demand for electricity and the decision in 2009 to scuttle plans for a new coal-fired power plant in the Pee Dee also played into the decision to sell off some of its nuclear project.
Though there are suitors, none have bought in yet, Varn said Wednesday.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.