Cayce, SC (WLTX) - SCE&G says they're offering rate reductions to customers as part of a broad plan that they say they're doing to win back trust and loyalty after the debacle over the VC Summer construction project.
Keller Kissam, who'll be the new President and Chief Operating Officer of SCE&G, announced the $4.8 billion proposal Thursday morning.
"Customers are angry," Kissam said. "They've told me they're angry, upset, we're disappointed."
"We are sorry, but that's not enough," he said, describing conversations he's had with customers. "They're disappointed in us, and it is crushing to me as well as our employees that a century of service that has established those bonds and those relationships has vanished so quickly."
Here are some of the key details announced. They still require regulatory approval, however:
- A 3.5% rate reduction that will be phased in soon. Kissam says it will take rates back to where they would have been in March of 2015. He says that will be a $90 million rate reduction per year. The company says the average customer will see their bill go down by $5.
- SCANA's shareholders will absorb the net nuclear construction costs through lower earnings over 50 years. He says the amount people are still paying for the construction will go down in half over the next three years, and will continue to go down for over three years.
- SCE&G is buying a 540 megawatt gas generation facility in Calhoun County, at what's known as Columbia LS Power. Kissam says it will generate about 40% of the power that was expected from if the new reactors at VC Summer. That will not affect people's rates, Kissam said.
- Create 100 additional solar mega watts on our system. This will increase their production of energy from solar by 50 percent.
"Our customers deserve this solution, and this is a forward-looking solution," said Kissam.
Kissam was asked why it took so long for the company to come up with this proposal. He said there needed to be discussions with many different stakeholders to get to where they are now.
"I do [when asked if they'd like to do something faster]," he said. "But I don't think the solution would have been as broad or encompassing."
"This is our best effort to bring a resolution to this," he added.
Last month, SCANA CEO Kevin Marsh and Senior Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer Stephen Byrne both announced they would step down. Kissam said that was part of the increase accountability with the company.
Back in July, SCE&G and Santee Cooper announced that they were abandoning a multi-year, multi-billion dollar project to build two new nuclear reactors at VC Summer in Fairfield County. The move cost 5,600 people their jobs.
SCE&G has said that continuing the project, which was overbudget and off-schedule, would have cost the company--and ultimately customers--a lot more money in the long-run.
However, under a law passed in 2007, SCE&G had already been collecting money from customers before the project was built, meaning people had paid almost $2 billion in fees, even though it wasn't complete.
SCE&G has blamed much of failure on Westinghouse, the company contracted to build the reactors. Westinghouse has since declared bankruptcy, and its parent company, Toshiba, reached a $2.2 billion settlement with SCE&G and Santee Cooper over the construction.
News that the project wouldn't be completed angered some state lawmakers, who have vowed to find a way to force the company to either pay back customers or complete the project. Gov. Henry McMaster had sent a letter to Marsh earlier this month asking him the company to immediately cease collecting the $37 million a month it takes in from customers to pay for the work.
Both the House and Senate have had multiple hearings on the matter, and U.S. Security and Exchange Commission is also investigating.
House Speaker Jay Lucas said despite Thursday's proposal, their efforts will continue.
“Today’s proposal provides further proof that SCANA has consistently prioritized the company’s profits over protecting its consumers. Ratepayers have demanded a serious approach to the VC Summer nuclear facility collapse and the House has succeeded in meeting their demands. We will continue to move our utility ratepayer protection package through the legislative process to ensure South Carolina consumers receive the protections they deserve.”