Energy concerns surround the South Carolina General Assembly, especially with an offer from Dominion Energy to purchase SCANA Corp. on the table.
Dominion is offering a $7 monthly rate cut to customers of SCANA’s electricity subsidiary, SCE&G, and rebates of approximately $1,000 a customer for the failed V.C. Summer nuclear project. But the Virginia-based utility says its offer is contingent upon legislators not undoing the law allowing customers to be charged over the next 20 years for debt incurred from the reactors in Fairfield County.
Local lawmaker Russell Ott, D-St. Matthews, is co-chair of the House Energy Caucus, part of the South Carolina Energy Caucus, a bipartisan effort between the House and Senate to stay mindful of the state’s energy needs.
“We identified a need, not only for this particular issue relating to SCANA, we realized that we basically need to get more attention to energy issues in South Carolina,” Ott said.
The caucus held its first meeting in January.
“It has been crazy how many entities have been able to reach out to us,” Ott said. It shows a desire and interest from several energy companies possibly locating to the state, including solar power.
This past week, the energy caucus members met for four hours with representatives from Dominion Energy to discuss the offer.
“Current customers of SCE&G will receive a rebate of at least about two-thirds of what they’ve paid into the facility,” Ott said. “They agreed to no rate increase.”
$1.3 billion in immediate refunds would be dispersed to customers who have paid $1.8 billion over the past decade for SCANA’s failed nuclear expansion project.
Ott added that customers would see a 5 percent cut in their utility bills from the 18 percent charge placed on them via SCE&G.
“I still don’t think that any of that 18 percent should be charged,” Ott said. “Is that the best deal we can get?”
He said legislators must make a difficult decision.
Dominion’s $14.6 billion offer to buy SCANA is on the table for six months and the utility is presently the only company making an offer.
Ott said he is undecided on whether to wait for another offer at the risk of losing Dominion.
“We want to make sure it’s the best deal possible for customers (and) rates don’t include a portion of the V.C. Summer Nuclear Facility,” he said.
Lawmakers want to push Dominion to improve on the deal.
In November, the House Judiciary Committee approved six bills that would block SCE&G from continuing to charge customers $37 million a month for the scuttled reactors and refund at least some of that money, actions lawmakers acknowledged could prompt legal action from the company.
Dominion Energy CEO Tom Farrell this past week told the S.C. Public Service Commission that the proposed deal to purchase SCANA is the best option South Carolina can hope for. Farrell warned SCANA could go bankrupt if the company can't keep charging customers to pay debts on the nuclear project.