Dominion Energy's latest offer to buy S.C. Electric & Gas includes dropping its offer of a $1,000 customer refund in exchange for reducing monthly bills even further.
In a new filing with South Carolina’s utility regulators, the company says it is willing to cut SCE&G’s electricity rates by 14 percent from where they were earlier this year. That's double its previous offer.
The extra savings translates to about $10 more off a monthly bill for the typical home.
The reduction is part of the debate over what the company will ultimately pay for SCE&G's failed effort to build a pair of nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer power plant north of Columbia.
SCE&G ratepayers have pumped some $2 billion into the nuclear project, and they might be on the hook for billions more.
Dominion had offered checks worth $1.3 billion — about $1,000 a home. That would be off the table if regulators choose the bigger rate cut.
And the new offer of cheaper monthly bills might not register as a big cut compared to the bills SCE&G ratepayers are getting this fall. The state Legislature slashed its bills through the end of the year to keep customers from paying as much for the nuclear project.
Dominion’s offer would nudge rates slightly higher than they are now, but they would prevent a big increase when the temporary cut ends.
Dominion says both options — higher rates with a refund, or lower rates without one — will be on the table when the state’s Public Service Commission begins debating SCE&G’s future next week. Regulators face one of the biggest utility questions in state history: Who should pay for SCE&G’s majority share in the $9 billion project?
Virginia-based Dominion is trying to answer that question by buying SCE&G and its parent company, SCANA Corp., in a buyout deal that was initially valued at $14.6 billion.
The idea of a no-refund option came up as Dominion tried to negotiate a deal that would keep the case from going to a drag-out regulatory fight. A week before regulators are set to start meeting, no such deal has been reached.
“It gives the PSC another option,” Dominion spokesman Ryan Frazier said Thursday of the new offer.
Both options might come off the table because of a lawsuit filed by a group of SCE&G ratepayers who want complete refunds for the V.C. Summer project and a bigger rate cut.
Circuit Judge John Hayes III is expected to give the ratepayer group a significant victory by striking down the law that lets SCE&G charge for the nuclear plant in the first place.
If that happens, Dominion would walk away from its plans to buy SCANA, CEO Thomas Farrell said in testimony filed with regulators. A decision could be handed down as early as next week.