Groups OK higher costs for nuke plant

A December aerial photograph shows the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station expansion site in Fairfield County.

A pair of groups representing customers of South Carolina Electric & Gas have reached an agreement with the utility over proposed increases in expenses for two new reactors at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station.

The S.C. Office of Regulatory Staff, which represents the public’s interests in utility regulations, and industry representative South Carolina Energy Users Committee said they do not oppose the increased construction and capital costs.

The agreement still requires approval by the state’s Public Service Commission.

SCE&G told state regulators in March that its portion of the delayed project north of Columbia was rising by $698 million, bringing its share of the nuclear power expansion to about $5.2 billion.

The completion dates for the new units are now June 2019 and June 2020, the Cayce-based utility said. It previously said it expected to fire up the first reactor by late 2018 or in the first half of 2019, with the second to follow a year later.

SCE&G said $539 million of the cost increase is associated with delays by its construction consortium and other “contested costs.”

The agreement announced Tuesday allows SCE&G to revise downward its return on equity for the Jenkinsville nuclear project, from 11 percent to 10.5 percent. The revised figure will be used to calculate customer rates sought by the utility starting next year.

SCE&G owns 55 percent of the V.C. Summer plant.

Moncks Corner-based electric utility Santee Cooper owns the rest, but it plans to sell some of its stake to SCE&G for $500 million, under an agreement announced in early 2014.

That deal will boost the SCANA Corp. subsidiary’s ownership to 60 percent. Santee Cooper’s portion will drop to 40 percent. The sale is expected to be finalized by about 2021.

Reach David Wren at 937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_