MONCKS CORNER, S.C. – The Santee Cooper Board of Directors today authorized a public comment period for a proposed rate adjustment recommended by the utility's management. The proposal would increase rates for customers an average 3.5 percent each year for two years.
As proposed, the first adjustment would take effect Dec. 1, 2012, and the second, on Dec. 1, 2013. The adjustments are needed to help Santee Cooper meet increased costs associated with new generation, primarily the ongoing V.C. Summer Nuclear Station expansion, and to comply with new environmental regulations.
Santee Cooper's base rates have not increased since November 2009. By comparison, prices in that time period have increased 48 percent for a gallon of gasoline, 20 percent for a pound of ground chuck, and 15 percent for a gallon of milk, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
"Cost controls have been crucial to Santee Cooper's ability to keep our rates low for customers, especially during the most recent economic downturn," said Santee Cooper President and CEO Lonnie Carter. "We have reduced or deferred $1.8 billion in capital spending since 2010, and cut our non-fuel operations about $25 million in 2011 and 2012. We have also saved our customers nearly $50 million over the life of bonds we refinanced in 2010 and 2011.
"Santee Cooper will continue to prioritize cost controls," Carter continued. "However, we are facing high prices associated with new environmental regulations, and construction of our new V.C. Summer units has begun now that we have our license. Nuclear power is virtually emission-free, and so these new units are critical as Santee Cooper diversifies its generation to better weather future environmental regulations and volatile fossil fuel costs. We remain focused on the best interests of our customers and our state."
Under the proposal, a typical residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours of energy a month would see his or her bill increase $5.60 a month in year one, and an additional $8.29 a month in year two. The proposed rate adjustment would also affect commercial, industrial, municipal and lighting customers.
Specifically today, the board approved a public comment period that includes a series of public meetings and a timeline for submitting written comments as well. Comments can be submitted by mail or email through a link at www.santeecooper.com/rates through July 23; Santee Cooper management will present information about the rate proposal and take oral comments during meetings at the following locations:
• June 21, 6:30 p.m., Santee Cooper Conway office, 100 Elm St., Conway
• June 22, 2 p.m., CCU Waccamaw Higher Education Center, 1690 Willbrook Blvd., Litchfield
• June 25, 6:30 p.m., Old Santee Canal Park Interpretive Center, 900 Stony Landing Road, Moncks Corner
• June 26, 2 p.m., North Myrtle Beach City Hall, 1018 Second Ave. South, North Myrtle Beach
• June 26, 6:30 p.m., Myrtle Beach Law Enforcement Center, 1101 N. Oak St., Myrtle Beach
The board will offer a final opportunity for public comments at its Aug. 20 meeting at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. The board will vote on the rate adjustment at its Sept. 11 meeting, and if approved, the new rates would take effect beginning Dec. 1.
More information is available at www.santeecooper.com/rates.