Higher Rates For Santee Cooper Customers If State-Owned Utility Sold

Rates are expected to increase for Santee Cooper Customers after 2019, but those rates could increase even more if the state-owned utility issold.

Columbia, SC (WLTX) - The Santee Cooper CEO explained that rates are expected to increase for customers after 2019.

Those same rates could increase even more if the state-owned utility is sold.

Lonnie Carter testified to lawmakers during a hearing on the shutdown of nuclear construction at the V.C. Summer plant.

Questioning lasted more than four hours for the soon-to-be retired CEO.

Representiative Peter McCoy was first to question Carter and brought up a letter that was sent to SCANA CEO Kevin Marsh, in 2013.

"Seems like, after reading this letter, that there are some red flags here, there are some issues here. Am I correct in assuming that?" asks Rep. McCoy.

In the letter, Carter expressed his issues with the scheduling of the project.

"Mr. Chairman," Carter responded. "Even a finance person can understand that if you don't get the materials to the site, you can't build it and you cant stay on schedule if you don't get the materials."

Despite concerns about scheduling, construction at the plant continued.

Carter took questions by himself, by members of the House Utility Ratepayer Protection Committee. As Santee Cooper board members were not present during the hearing, which frustrated lawmakers.

When asked about future rates, Carter explained that the deal made last week to monetize the Toshiba settlement will fix rates up to 2019.
 
"But eventually Santee Cooper will have to raise rates," says Carter. "There are still some nuclear costs that will have to be recovered, but there are going to be other cost that will have to be covered."

When asked about the selling of the state-owned utility, Carter explained that rates would be even higher for customers, explaining that an independent utility would have to focus on it's shareholders, not just its rate payers.

"Santee is heavily leveraged and we are able to issue for some of our business, a fair amount of it tax exempt debt," says Carter. "As I mentioned, we don't have shareholders to pay a return to, so our capital cost in a capital intensive business is lower than an investor-owned utility."

"It is important to see at this point that this is a suspension, because I have seen power plants get stopped and then years later, even decades later, and be gone back to," says Carter. "So in my opinion, what we have is an investment that should be protected the best way it can."

Lawmakers are looking to question members of the Santee Cooper board during their next hearing.

© 2017 WLTX-TV


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