South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. backed further away today from its initial rate increase request of nearly 10 percent by lowering its request to 4.88 percent.

The Cayce-based power company proposed the lower rate to the state's Office of Regulatory Staff, which was urging the company to lower its request to that amount.

Under the utility's newly proposed rates, the average residential customer's bill would go up about $69.48 a year, or about $5.79 a month, if they are approved.

The proposal includes a possible one-time credit of $25 million that could be distributed to SCE&G's electric customers during the next year.

The rate increases would be phased in over three years: 2.5 percent in July 2010, 1.2 percent in July 2011 and 1.18 percent in July 2012.

The proposal announced today by SCE&G require approval from the S.C. Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities in the state.

Company representatives held a series of public forums recently to take input from residents.

Read more in tomorrow's Post and Courier.