Dominion Energy customers will get another opportunity to weigh in on the utility's newly proposed rate hike, which could increase the monthly power bills for 753,000 ratepayers in South Carolina starting next year.
The S.C. Public Service Commission scheduled two hearings in early January so the public can comment on the company's plan to boost its earnings by $178 million annually.
The state regulatory panel held three virtual hearings in November so that Dominion electric customers could call in to voice their opinions about the rate hike, which would increase the company's rates by 7.7 percent. But a number of connection issues and technical problems made it difficult for customers to testify about the proposal.
The second round of hearings will be held on Jan. 5 from 1 to 6 p.m. and on Jan. 7 from 6 to 9 p.m. And this time, Dominion ratepayers will be allowed to testify in person, if they choose.
The commission decided not to allow people to speak in person at the hearings in November, even though state health officials advised them that it would be possible as long as speakers wore masks and followed public health procedures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The PSC said it will be following public health guidelines for the January hearings and will be disinfecting the room between speakers.
Documents filed with the commission show that 25 power customers have already signed up for the next hearings. Only one of them plans to testify in person at the PSC's office, which is just outside Columbia off Interstate 20.
It marks the first time that Dominion has asked to increase its customers' monthly bills since the company took over Cayce-based SCANA Corp. and S.C. Electric & Gas in early 2019.
The seven members of the PSC, which act as judges in utility rate cases, will ultimately be responsible for deciding whether Dominion gets what it is asking for.
The PSC is preparing to hold separate hearings in early January where attorneys for Dominion, environmental groups, several large industrial electric customers and two consumer advocacy agencies will present evidence about the proposed higher rates.