Santee Cooper cancels rate increase plan in wake of nuclear fall out

Members of Santee Cooper's board discuss the rate increase at a meeting.JPG

Electric rate increases planned to help support the construction of two nuclear power plants in South Carolina may fizzle with the original plans to construct the plants.

The Santee Cooper Board of Directors authorized the nixing of the increases today. They would have taken effect in 2018 and 2019.

A press release issued by Santee Cooper Friday states "the vote cancels all steps in the rate process."

The release says the utility provider is now prepping for new meetings to discuss the suspension of the expansion.

Santee Cooper's board approved a rate study in March. But that was before Westinghouse, the company behind the nuclear project, filed for bankruptcy. Rates could have increased 3.9 percent in 2018, and 3.5 percent in 2019.

"Westinghouse's failure to properly report its accounting losses led to their bankruptcy," said Lonnie Carter, president and CEO of Santee Cooper.

"Conditions have changed materially since the rate process began in March," said W. Leighton Lord III, Chairman of the Santee Cooper Board of Directors. "Our recent Board votes to suspend the nuclear project and also to accept a negotiated settlement with Toshiba, Westinghouse's parent company, allow us to now cancel this rate process. The Board will continue to make decisions based on what is necessary to protect the financial integrity of Santee Cooper."

Suspending construction on the V.C. Summer expansion could save Santee Cooper customers nearly $7 billion in additional capital and interest costs, the utility provider reports. Santee Cooper reports there would have been a 75 percent expense over an originally predicted 41 percent increase.

"Obviously Santee Cooper eventually will have to have rate increases. But what we're trying to look at is what specifically do we need to do based on what we know today," admitted Carter.

For now, utility officials promise strict oversight of costs for their customers.

"They won't see any more at this point because we're not changing electric rates," Carter said adamantly.

Rate comment meetings scheduled next week in Moncks Corner, Pawleys Island, and Horry County are now canceled.

Instead, town hall meetings are being planned so customers can learn more about the failed $14 billion project, and how Santee Cooper plans to go forward.

Next week's canceled rate comment meetings are:

Aug. 14, 6 p.m., Moncks Corner

Aug. 15, 2 p.m. in North Myrtle Beach, 6 p.m. in Pawleys Island

Aug. 16, 2 p.m. in Conway, 6 p.m. in Myrtle Beach

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