NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. (WJBF)- The decision to cancel two nuclear reactors at V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in Jenkinsville, S.C. affects nearly everyone in the Palmetto State because those who get their electricity from SCE&G or a co-op, such as Aiken Electric, have been paying for the reactors on their power bills.
Nine rate hikes later, and those customers are getting nothing for their investment in nuclear power, except possibly more charges.
“My power bill’s always expensive,” said SCE&G customer Dee Bodie.
Part of those bills every month goes toward constructing nuclear reactors 2 and 3 at V.C. Summer Nuclear Station, even though they will never produce a kilowatt.
“We work hard for it, and for it to go into something that’s not going to be used at all is kind of like throwing your money away,” Bodie said.
Leaders at SCANA, the parent company of SCE&G, and Santee Cooper, which co-own the project, decided to stop construction at the site last week, citing financial worries. The project was billions over budget and years behind schedule. However, corporate leaders continued receiving raises. SCANA CEO Kevin Marsh received $6.1 million last year, SEC filings show.
SCANA also reports profits of $121 million for the second quarter of this year, and they’re not expecting to take a hit from the reactors’ abandonment.
In fact, in the same release that announced abandonment, the company reassured its shareholders, stating they are still expecting average annual earnings per share to grow between 2 and four percent over the next few years.
But someone still has to pick up the tab for the nearly $9 billion spent so far. It’s falling on ratepayers, who are also paying for the project’s estimated profits. That’s money that’s been going back to shareholders.
The power companies can legally collect profits before project completion under the Base Load Review Act, which passed at about the same time the project was approved.
NewsChannel 6 wanted to find out how much it’s cost you, the consumer. We obtained a report of rate increases under the BLRA from the state’s office of regulator staff.
Its rate increases reflect numbers are for a household that uses 1,000 kwh, which is a little below average. Then, we did the math, compounding the gradual rate increases over the years. We found that the average household will have paid more than $1,500 through July of this year.
The rate increases mirror an increase in the projects cost.
What started out as a 48 cent monthly increase in 2009 ballooned to a $27 dollar charge beginning last year, as the estimated cost to complete grew from about $11 billion to about twice that, and the rate base never grew as was expected before the Great Recession.
As its parts at the site rust, customers will still be paying them off if abandonment is approved by the Public Service Commission. Ratepayers are projected to pay about $1.8 billion for V.C. Summer construction through this year, but SCANA is asking that they continue to pay about $2.2 billion under the Base Load Review Act.
They want to pay it off with charges on customers’ bills over the next 60 years.
“That’s wrong,” said SCE&G customer Justin Maddox. “That’s so wrong in every way.”
SCANA did respond to a comment request.
Regulators and legislators are stepping up to see how they can protect customers from these charges. House Speaker Jay Lucas and the Office of Regulatory Staff are filing a motion to dismiss SCE&G’s petition to abandon the project.
The say it could lead to an automatic rate hike. The Speaker has also assembled a committee to protect ratepayers and investigate the situation. Local Reps. Bart Blackwell and Bill Hixon are among those appointed.
“Being appointed to this committee, I can’t wait our meeting, being able to start looking into this and seeing what went wrong,” Hixson said. “And trying to change something that’s going to help us as ratepayers where we won’t have to pay for this for 60 more years as they’re talking about.”
He says he also reimbursed SCANA and Santee Cooper for all campaign donations they have made to him.
The committee’s first meeting is slated for later this month.