Santee Cooper Cancels Rate Increases

Santee Cooper Cancels Rate Increases

Santee Cooper has scrapped plans to raise electricity rates for customers, hikes that were meant to help bankroll an over-budget and now-abandoned nuclear expansion project in Fairfield County.

Mike Couick, director at the Electric Cooperatives of SC, was encouraged by Santee Cooper's decision but said he needs to look more carefully at the board's action.

The utility would have had to raise electricity rates 41 percent had it not given up building two more nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer site near Jenkinsville, chief executive officer Lonnie Carter estimated.

Santee Cooper will host meetings in the upcoming weeks to share information on why the utility company chose to suspend the Summer plant expansion. Dates and times for those meetings have not been finalized.

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The state-owned electricity provider had been considering price hikes of 3.5 percent and 3.9 percent in 2018 and 2019 to help pay for the expansion. Those rate increases were needed to meet additional expenses related to the nuclear project, declining load, other system improvements and environmental compliance.

Gov. Henry McMaster said this week that he was in talks with three other Southeast utilities about selling Santee Cooper entirely or its 45 percent stake in the failed V.C. Summer expansion. "We will tighten our belts and continue to look for ways we can be more efficient to make up the balance. It is important that we hold the line on costs, and Santee Cooper's talented and dedicated workforce will rise to the occasion". Power from Santee Cooper that goes to electric cooperatives is sold wholesale, so any increase in wholesale rates can affect cooperative customers. The settlement will be paid in installments beginning in October 2017 and ending in September 2022. Santee Cooper's analysis of costs and schedule following Westinghouse's bankruptcy showed the cost to complete both units would be $11.4 billion including interest. The utility had planned to increase rates by 3.7 percent over that span.

But on July 31, though, Santee Cooper and SCE&G abandoned plans to build the two reactors, about eight years and $9 billion into the project. The increase makes the project uneconomical.

The city of Georgetown purchases power from Santee Cooper for its city-owned electric utility.

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