State-owned utility rates going up after failed reactors

March 21, 2018


This article was originally published in the Associated Press on March 21, 2018.

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The state-owned utility says rates will be going up after the failed nuclear project in South Carolina last year.

Santee Cooper said Wednesday it expects rates to go up 7 percent because of the decision to abandon construction of two reactors in Fairfield County last July, media outlets reported.

Santee Cooper and South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. abandoned the project after the bankruptcy of lead contractor Westinghouse. The project was years behind schedule and well over budget. The two utilities had spent about $9 billion at the time.

Santee Cooper’s statement comes after a conservative group released a report Tuesday saying rates could go up nearly 14 percent in order to pay $4 billion in debt.

The Palmetto Promise Institute, founded by former U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, issued a 49-page report and concluded that Santee Cooper should be sold. Gov. Henry McMaster has been pushing that idea since August. The governor has tried to recruit someone to buy the utility, which provides electricity to the state’s electric cooperatives.

Santee Cooper has said previously it won’t raise rates before 2020.

Santee Cooper customers are currently paying about $5 per month for the nuclear project. The Palmetto Promise Institute says the utility would need to increase to another $16 per month for the average customer to pay the debt, which the utility has said will be on its books until 2056.

The report recommends that lawmakers consider offers for the utility. The 20 electric cooperatives that buy much of Santee Cooper’s power have considered making an offer for the utility.