Customers would still be charged for V.C. Summer under Dominion-SCANA merger, but Dominion says it would absorb some costs

AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF)- A proposed merger between Dominion Energy and SCANA would alter how much customers pay on their bills toward now-abandoned nuclear construction at V.C. Summer.

The company told lawmakers customers would owe about $3 billion over the next 20 years under the plan, which is less than SCANA had proposed charging.

A rep from Dominion tells NewsChannel 6 the company is trying to be transparent with SCE&G customers about what the merger would mean for them. We crunched the numbers they provided about rate decreases to find out how much the average SCE&G customer would pay under Dominion.

Richmond, Va. based Dominion Energy has swooped in with an approximately $14.6 billion plan to merge with SCANA and assume it as a subsidy.

“We knew the folks from SCANA and SCE&G, and we knew what was happening in South Carolina in terms of the electric rates and the challenges with the V.C. Summer project,” said Chet Wade, who is VP of corporate communications at Dominion Energy. “We believe we can help, and that’s what we want to do.”

Their plan would give the average SCE&G customer a $1,000 lump sum within 90 days of closing the merger.

“An average customer is probably somebody who pays about $150 to $160 a month for their bill,” Wade said.

Using publicly available data on the rate hikes to pay for V.C. Summer, NewsChannel 6 finds that the average household that’s been a customer since the charges started in 2008 has paid more than $1,600 for the nuclear project on their power bills through 2017. Wade tells me the $1,000 payment is basically a refund of money customer’s have already paid for Summer, so if you just became an SCE&G customer and are expecting to make money off that payment, you might want to think again.

“I mean obviously some folks may have just moved into the area, last week, and they haven’t been paying for those costs the whole time, so we’ll work with the regulators to make sure the best way, the best formula to make that work,” Wade said.

Billions of dollars have already been sunk in the project, and someone has to pay for it. SCANA executives originally proposed charging it on customers bills for the next 50 to 60 years.

Dominion’s leadership claims they have a plan that would cost half as much. It involves coughing up $1.7 billion themselves, and passing on savings from lower corporate taxes to ratepayers.

They say that would contribute to a five percent rate reduction in the portion of bills designated for V.C. Summer. Those would gradually drop over the next 20 years, so customers would still be paying until 2037, still decades ahead of SCANA’s proposed timeline. We calculated that the charges for V.C. Summer and transmission under Dominion’s proposal  would add up to about $4,000 for the average ratepayer over the next two decades.

That’s to pay for the costs sunk into the nuclear project.

We asked Wade how he would respond to a customer who begrudges spending any more money on V.C. Summer.

“We’re trying to offer something that’s much better than today, and that’s the best we can do,” he said.

Bills introduced in the South Carolina legislature that would require the utility to pay the billions of dollars in sunk costs would derail the proposed merger. Wade tells NewsChannel 6 the company just can’t make that work.

SCANA is on board with the merger.

The merger is not a done deal. It still faces regulatory approval from several state and federal entities.

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