VC Summer Jan 31 2018 IMG_3575.jpg (copy) (copy)

An aerial shows the the V.C. Summer nuclear project. File/High Flyer/Provided

South Carolina Electric & Gas customers will see their power bills drop this month after a federal judge ruled in favor Monday of rate cuts approved by state lawmakers and regulators.

The rates being cut temporarily are tied to the $9 billion nuclear reactor project canceled a year ago.

Here's what 700,000 SCE&G customers — as well as corporate shareholders — need to know:

What's being cut from my bill?

Rates are dropping by 15 percent starting Tuesday.

The average SCE&G residential customer will save $22 a month that goes toward the abandoned but partially built reactors at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station. 

How long does the rate cut last?

The rate cut backdates to April bills and will run through the end of the year. That means residential customers will save $198 on average.

When will I see lower bills?

The discounts should start showing up in August bills.

And there's a bonus: the rate-cut savings from April, May, June and July bills will be applied in August, as well — slimming down charges during one of the year's hottest months.

Will some of my bill still go toward paying for the abandoned nuclear reactors?

Yes, about 3 percent, or $5 a month on average.

Why is the rate cut not permanent?

The state Public Service Commission needs until the end of the year to decide whether to cut all or some of the charges related to the failed nuclear plant expansion for good.

Lawmakers did not want to wait so long to give SCE&G customers a break on their bills, so they passed a temporary 15 percent rate cut over the objections of SCE&G.

When the cut was approved by regulators, SCE&G moved quickly to block it in federal court but failed.

Will this impact the proposed sale of SCE&G's parent SCANA Corp. to Dominion Energy?

Perhaps.

Any news involving SCANA's power rates adds complications to Virginia-based Dominion's $14.6 billion bid to buy the Cayce utility. SCANA will pay about $270 million for the rate cuts.

Yet SCANA stock had risen in recent days after a sharp fall while lawmakers debated the utility's rates. But shares dropped by 5 percent in after-hours trading soon after the court decision was announced Monday.

Even with all the uncertainty about rates, Dominion is still trying to woo customers with promises of a $1,000 rebate and lower rates if state regulators approve the sale.

What remains unclear is how much of a hit to SCANA's bottom line will it take to kill the sale of the state's largest publicly traded company.  

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Columbia Bureau Chief

Shain runs The Post and Courier's team based in South Carolina's capital city. He was editor of Free Times and has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Charlotte, Columbia and Myrtle Beach.