At least one more partner may be needed to finish two abandoned nuclear reactors in Fairfield County, according to Office of Regulatory Staff director, Dukes Scott.
Partners South Carolina Electric and Gas, and state-owned Santee Cooper earlier this summer announced they would abandon the project, after spending roughly $9 billion.
SCE&G withdrew its abandonment petition last week to give officials time to decide how to proceed. The utility plans to refile the petition unless another partner comes forward.
“This nuclear is important to this nation,” Scott said Tuesday to a Senate panel investigating what caused the project to fail.
Scott cited a need for involvement by the federal government and for the General Assembly to decide how much more—if any—customers should be charged to finish the project.
Already, SCE&G customers have paid $1.4 billion. They may be on the hook for more, even if the project never reaches completion.
Dukes wondered whether the cost of abandoning the project would be greater for ratepayers, who will likely not get their money back if the project isn’t completed. The utility hiked rates seven times from 2005 to 2015 under the Base Load Review Act—a law that made it easier for utilities to hike rates to fund projects, whether they reach completion or not.
An ongoing independent review by consultants, who ORS hired, revealed problems with the project in 2016. Scott reached out to the state’s business community for input on how to proceed.
“The unanimous sense was you don’t abandon now,” he said.
South Carolina has 44 electric suppliers, according to Scott. Only four—including SCE&G—are regulated by the Public Service Commission, which oversees the state’s public utilities and regulates rates charged by utilities.
The Senate committee is planning to hold four to six additional hearings beginning this fall. Lawmakers are exploring whether the project can be salvaged.
A similar House committee will begin hearings on Wednesday.