Santee Cooper won’t raise rates on ceased nuclear plant work

South Carolina’s state-owned utility Santee Cooper apparently will not raise rates again on customers after it abandoned plans to finish work on two new nuclear actors at the V.C. Summer plant.

Company leaders said Friday they will no longer seek increases of 3.5 percent and 3.9 percent that had been planned to help pay for the now-abandoned reactors.

Santee Cooper and South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. announced July 31 they were giving up on new reactors at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station northwest of Columbia. The two utilities had already spent $9 billion, much of it paid from their customers.

The utilities began evaluating the way forward on Summer units 2 and 3 after the bankruptcy filing of reactor contractor Westinghouse. The Westinghouse reorganization could likely scuttle some important deadlines, incentives and cost control measures for the estimated $25 billion project, according to reports.

The units would need to be online before January 1, 2021, to qualify for production tax credits, under current tax rules. SCE&G’s analysis concluded the Units could not be brought online until after this date.

All hope is not completely lost for those want to see the construction completed. Several news sites are reporting that South Carolina may have potential buyers for the Santee Cooper state-run electric utility—a deal which could finance restart of the work.

The Charleston Post and Courier, Wall Street Journal and other outlets have reported that South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and other officials have been shopping the South Carolina Public Service Authority (Santee Cooper) around for a potential sale. Would-be suitors include units of Duke Energy, Dominion and Southern Co., among others.

Earlier this month, SCANA CEO Kevin Marsh and others testified before the South Carolina PSC about the abandonment plan. Marsh told regulators that the company and its partners went to Washington, D.C. seeking some kind of help to keep the Summer expansion going.

“We delivered our message very directly, very clearly, in terms of what we were looking for to support the projects,” Marsh testified. “We went as high as Rick Perry, Secretary of Energy, in the last meeting we had up there, and we’ve not gotten a response.”

Santee Cooper CEO Lonnie Carter also made pleas to Washington, to no avail, the testimony indicates.

Customers have been paying higher rates to fund the work since 2009, while the project costs have ballooned to $25 billion.

The Associated Press and Senior Editor Rod Walton contributed to this report.




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