SCE&G’s 662,000 electric customers in South Carolina will receive lower bills beginning in May. On April 20, the Public Service Commission of South Carolina (PSCSC) approved the utility’s request (Docket No. 178571) to adjust its electric rates to reflect lower fuel costs associated with “generating and purchasing power to meet the needs of its customers, and to allow for recovery of costs associated with promoting energy efficiency programs,” the utility said.
The overall 4.5 percent decrease means that residential customers using 1,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity per month would see their bill drop $6.74 next month – from $149.58 to $142.84.
“Our efforts to ensure a balanced and diversified fuel mix have contributed to a downward trend in our fuel costs,” said SCE&G CEO Steve Byrne. “We’re pleased to pass those lower costs on to our customers.”
Byrne said the 4.5 percent decrease should offset any increase to residential electric rates through year-end, including one expected this fall related to two new nuclear units the company is building near Jenkinsville, South Carolina.
“We don’t yet know the exact amount of the rate increase for this fall, but we anticipate our customers will be paying no more for their electricity at the end of 2016 than they were at the start of this year and perhaps even less,” said Byrne.
SCE&G can adjust electric rates annually during construction of the new nuclear units to recover only financing costs associated with the project. These adjustments are allowed under a state law known as the Base Load Review Act (BLRA). A recently completed independent review confirmed that the BLRA will save SCE&G’s customers approximately $4 billion in rates over the life of the new nuclear units by significantly reducing the amount of interest associated with the project.
Also in May, SCE&G’s residential electric bills will include a new line item labeled, Renewable Energy Resources. This $0.34 monthly charge (already factored into the above bill calculations) is intended by the utility to support the development of programs to encourage customer investment in renewable energy, such as rooftop solar panels for homes or businesses. SCE&G develops and administers these programs under guidelines of the South Carolina Distributed Energy Resource Program Act (Act 236), which was signed into law in 2014.
Act 236 promotes development of a diversified renewable energy portfolio in South Carolina by helping utilities to interconnect both utility-scale and customer-scale solar energy to their systems. The law allows regulated utilities to seek recovery of certain costs associated with renewable energy incentive programs. The Renewable Energy Resources charge can be adjusted annually to reflect those costs, but cannot exceed $1 a month for residential customers.
“Our goal is to add 84 megawatts (MW) of new solar to our system by the end of 2020,” said Byrne. “By developing nuclear and solar, we’re creating a cleaner, more balanced generation mix to meet the needs of our customers.”