The mood in the room was tense but orderly as SCE&G ratepayers from around Columbia waited their turn to testify before the South Carolina Public Service Commission (PSC), the body legally charged with regulating South Carolina’s monopoly investor-owned utilities.
Recurring calls for justice, accountability and energy competition emerged as seniors, business owners and activists testified about the personal hardships created by South Carolina’s politically-managed, regulated-monopoly energy ecosystem.
One ratepayer mused, “If Westinghouse had not gone belly up, would this party still be going on at our expense?” Another, Jerry, attended to testify on behalf of his elderly neighbors who are “barely making it, because it’s all they can do to pay their bills.”
Mr. Montgomery, a retired Marine, closed out his remarks referring to the robust competition between Sprint, AT&T and Verizon and commenting, “If people were given a choice, we wouldn’t have this problem.”
Queen Lewis spoke toward the end of the hearing and was irate about her high bills. “It’s awful when you get an electric bill almost as much as your mortgage when there’s just two people in your house,” she said.
Queen Lewis captured the crowd with heartfelt testimony –
delivered with a touch of humor – about the hardships created
by her high energy bills.
A major cause of the rapidly increasing bills for SCE&G customers is the V.C. Summer crisis that saw the company spend $4.73 billion on the construction of two nuclear reactors whose construction was halted over a year ago. Ratepayers – of which I am one – have already been asked to pay $1.9 billion in utility bill increases and could end up paying nearly $15,000 in total costs per household, all to pay for energy that will never exist.
As lawmakers continue to weigh their response to the ongoing V.C. Summer crisis, they would do well to hear the common sense pleas of the people stuck footing the bills. Accountability through increased competition, not more failed, top-down regulation could be the energy revolution that saves SC consumers.