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South Carolina lawmakers studying ways to lower electric prices for ratepayers

South Carolina has the fourth highest electric rates in the country.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — As electric costs skyrocket, state lawmakers are studying ways to drive rates down, by possibly changing the way South Carolina buys and generates electricity. 

Kierra Rembert who lives in Columbia said her power bills are higher than ever. 

"They're about $300 a month," she said. 

And as a household of five, there's little she can do about it. 

"My mom was in school, she does work from home then you have me who takes online classes, the tv’s always running," said Rembert. 

According to the Conservation Voters of South Carolina, Rembert isn't alone. 

"We’ve got the fourth highest energy bills in the nation and some of our customers are paying 35% of their income just to energy bills," said government relations director Meagan Diedolf. 

With this in mind, lawmakers passed a resolution in 2020 to study possibly moving away from the current business model for the state's electric utilities. 

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Currently, South Carolinians' energy needs are served by Duke Energy, Dominion Energy, Santee Cooper, and several small cooperatives. 

"What we're looking for is ways to make the power companies more competitive, so that the price of electricity in South Carolina is as low as we can possibly get," said committee member Sen. Brad Hutto. 

Hutto said the committee has heard hours of presentations from consumer, environmental and solar advocates, and power company representatives. 

Hutto said the most impactful avenue they're exploring is to either start or join a multi-state organization with a shared grid, allowing sales of electricity between utilities. 

"The idea is that you would pool together your resources with a group of others to buy in bulk," said Hutto. 

They're also studying ways to transition to clean energy sources like solar and wind, which Diedolf said is cheaper than coal or natural gas. 

"As we increase renewable energy usage and increase diversity of energy mix, you’re gonna see downward pressure on rates," said Diedolf. 

Hutto said the final report will take months to complete and any legislation stemming from it could take years to pass. 

"You can't you can't just flip the switch so to speak without at least studying what your options are," said Hutto. 

For ratepayers like Rembert, relief can't come soon enough. 

"Because we need it, we shouldn't have to pay so much for it," said Rembert.

RELATED: Dominion Energy customers could start paying more starting Nov. 1, here's why.

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