April 29, 2009

Santee Cooper Raises Rates to Pay for Coal

On the heels of a report released by the Coastal Conservation League that contends that Santee Cooper's misconceived coal plant proposal would lead to much higher rates for South Carolinians, Santee Cooper now joins every South Carolina utility in announcing its intentions to foist rate increases on their customers over the next year or so.

The reason for all of these rate increases are our utilities' over-reliance on coal. In this Santee Cooper is no different from the pack (although it is more dependent on coal than all the other utilities in the state by a fair margin).

What distinguishes Santee Cooper in this rush to raise our rates is the fact that it is the only South Carolina utility proposing to increase its dependence on coal by building a new coal plant.

That is the real reason for its rate increase, and it is the reason why its rates are at risk of rising higher than other utility's rates in the future.

The story was recently covered in the Post and Courier:
Santee Cooper, which last year said it needed to raise electricity prices to cover the expenses of providing power to 2 million South Carolinians, has disclosed how much it wants to increase rates.
Residential customers would see a 7.5 percent rate increase beginning Nov. 1 under a proposal approved Friday, and an additional 7.6 percent increase on top of that in November 2010.
If implemented, the average household power bill for Santee Cooper users will rise $14.47 annually after the two increases take effect.

Commercial, industrial and municipal customers also will have a two-phase rate increase, though those rates aren't as steep.

The rate increases aren't final. The Moncks Corner-based utility, the state's largest power producer, will hold a series of public meetings this summer before its board votes on the matter in August.

If finalized, the additional revenue will cover the cost of electricity production, which has grown since the last time Santee Cooper raised its base rate in 1996, said spokeswoman Mollie Gore. The utility said it has since invested nearly $3 billion to double its generating capacity to keep pace with its 60 percent customer growth rate.

Some of the money will be spent on new power plants, including a coal-fired power plant in the Pee Dee area, which has an estimated cost of $1.3 billion.
Read more at the Post and Courier's website.

You can read and comment on the utility's rate increase proposal here. They are also holding a series of public meetings on the rate increase. The schedule of meetings is here.

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