Updated May 25, 2018. First published October 12, 2017.
Paying among the highest electric rates in the South, as South Carolina Electric and Gas customers do, likely won’t yield affordable nuclear energy to customers .
That pipe dream was abandoned—officially and amid much rancor—in July, along with two nuclear reactors that two utilities spent $9 billion to build over nine years.
Partners SCE&G, and state-owned Santee Cooper financed the project partly through a series of rate hikes worth billions.
The value the average South Carolinian gets in exchange for paying an average of 11.04 cents per kilowatt hour—the 17th lowest residential energy rate nationwide—is merely as good as the air conditioning is cold.
S.C.’s residential customers saw the sharpest decline nationwide in energy rates from February 2017 to 2018—14.2 percent from 12.86 cents per kilowatt-hour to 11.04, according to the energy marketplace, Choose Energy.
Average rates in five Southern states increased. Arkansas’ rate remained at 9.8 cents per kWh.
Residential customers at three of S.C.’s top utilities outspend this average on their power bills, however.
Customers at Duke Energy are billed 11.285 cents per kWh from July through October, and 10.285 cents after the first 800 kilowatt-hours during the remainder of the year.
Customers at state-owned Santee-Cooper, the minority partner in the failed V.C. Summer project, pay 11.97 cents per kWh in the summer, and 9.97 cents during cooler months.
South Carolina Electric and Gas, the project’s majority partner, charges customers 13.652 cents per kWh for the first 800 kilowatt-hours, and 15.022 cents per kWh for additional usage from June through September. The utility’s base rate is the same from October through May, with additional usage billed at 13.104 cents per kWh.
By contrast, the average U.S. residential energy rate is 12.62 cents per kWh, down from 12.78 cents in February 2017, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
South Carolina’s electric rates averaged higher than 30 other states in 2017.
By contrast, the state then ranked 25th nationwide overall in terms of affordable living, according to rankings by U.S. News and World Report. Those rankings were based on 2015 and 2016 data. South Carolina ranked 24th nationwide in total monthly energy costs, according to a June report by the credit reporting site, WalletHub. At the time of the report, South Carolinians had the most expensive electricity costs in the nation, averaging $173 per month. The average monthly energy bill in South Carolina was $278, including motor fuel and natural gas.
A House-Senate conference committee is negotiating a temporary rate reduction ahead of the Public Service Commission’s rate ruling in December, when the agency is also set to rule on whether to accept or reject Dominion Energy’s SCANA buyout.
The House version originally called for an 18 percent cut—all of SCE&G’s rate hikes for the Summer project. The Senate is calling for a tamer version—a 13 percent cut—for fear the higher cut wouldn’t survive a legal challenge. Senate leaders have also said they want to avoid dooming the utility.
As an alternative, the House plan would accept the 13 percent cut in exchange for forcing SCE&G to issue customers a rebate.
The rate negotiation has been gridlocked in committee for weeks.