Earlier this year (July 20), the Palmetto State learned the devastating news. In a major industrial announcement, Nippon Denkai said that it was reversing its initial decision to expand in the Camden, S.C. area and would instead be investing $150 million in rival Georgia. It gets worse. The manufacturer of copper foil for electric vehicle batteries further reported that it expects the investment in Augusta to grow to $430 million and create 250 jobs over 5 years.
One of the driving factors in choosing Georgia over South Carolina according to Nippon Denkai? South Carolina’s high electricity prices. Unfortunately, that’s not “fake news.” South Carolina has high residential electricity bills. Recently, they were the highest in the nation (2016). Note: As we go to press with this post, Duke Energy Carolinas has announced that it will hike rates on its industrial customers a whopping 24.4%.
But there are innovations that can provide relief. The experiences of other states show how electricity choice can shift risk for expensive generation assets away from ratepayers, lower prices, and improve customer service and innovation. This is a welcome solution for South Carolina, a state that in spite of its many providers, denies its citizens access to more than one option.
Until Nippon, the most significant headline-grabbing unwelcome news for the South Carolina electricity customer, also known as the “ratepayer,” was the failure of the V.C. Summer nuclear plant expansion almost exactly five years ago (July 31, 2017). But few energy customers are aware of the rest of the story: power costs and prices are high all over the Palmetto State.
- South Carolina is regularly in the top ten in consumer spending for electricity and has in recent years been #1 (2016). In the most recently recorded year, 2021, the Palmetto State was third highest in the nation. This is for a state that comes in at 44 in per capita personal income.
- South Carolina’s prices for industrial, commercial, and residential use are higher than our neighbors and economic development competitors in North Carolina and Georgia.
- South Carolina’s prices are even less competitive compared to Texas, which has reformed its energy market more than any other state.
- There are options, a Spectrum of Reform, presented in a new paper by Palmetto Promise Institute and The Conservative Energy Network that could each save ratepayers pain at the meter. But there must be enough political will to enact them.