If anyone’s going to pay out refunds for South Carolina’s failed nuclear project, Santee Cooper also wants its customers to get them.
That’s the request the state-owned power company made late Friday to state regulators, who are days away from considering a refund proposal.
Santee Cooper says its customers deserve to share in the refunds Dominion Energy has proposed to make to South Carolina Electric & Gas’s ratepayers. In its bid to buy SCE&G’s parent company, Dominion has offered to cut checks worth $1.3 billion to make up for some of the money customers pumped into project.
But that money would only go to customers of SCE&G, which owned most of the $9 billion effort to build a pair of reactors at V.C. Summer station north of Columbia. Santee Cooper, which owned the rest, says that isn’t fair.
Instead, Santee Cooper says state regulators should order Dominion to pay another $351 million so Santee Cooper can refund its customers at the same rate as SCE&G's.
It says the money could pay for the unfinished reactors to be maintained, and it could defray some of the billions its customers are expected to pay over the next few decades. It says the money should be set aside in a “special interest fund.”
After all, Santee Cooper says, its customers were also affected by SCE&G’s decisions, including its decision to leave the plant to rust.
"The people of South Carolina who now could be responsible for costs associated with SCE&G’s abandonment of the project must not be ignored," Santee Cooper said in a filing Friday.
The utility says its proposed fund would also benefit customers of the state's electric cooperatives, which buy most of Santee Cooper's power.
The proposal throws a curveball into what is already a high-stakes and contentious decision for South Carolina’s utility regulators. The Public Service Commission is tasked with deciding how much of the failed nuclear project SCE&G ratepayers have to cover, and whether Dominion’s offer would give them enough savings.
Dominion didn't immediately comment on the proposal, saying it hadn't reviewed the filing. But it has said that it would walk away if regulators force the company to pay more.
Before a temporary rate reduction this fall, the V.C. Summer accounted for nearly a fifth of SCE&G’s power bills. In exchange for buying the utility, Dominion has offered to pay out refunds worth about $1,000 for the typical home and cuts bills by about $10 a month. Alternatively, it said this week that it’s willing to cut bills by $21 a month with no refunds.
"Conspicuously absent from either proposal are any benefits to Santee Cooper wholesale and retail customers who have been negatively impacted by the abandonment," Santee Cooper said.
Gov. Henry McMaster has advocated for the state to sell Santee Cooper to a private utility in hopes of winning similar concessions for its customers. The Legislature is exploring the idea, but so far, no one has submitted a formal bid.