June 5, 2009

More on the rate hikes

The Coastal Observer as well put out an article regarding Santee Cooper's rate hikes. The Coastal Observer's article has more specific testimonies, making the rate hikes personal and help to convey the great concern for South Carolina's environmental future. Below, the statement made by Molly Gore, spokeswoman for Santee Cooper, is emboldened because her statement that coal is a cheap energy provider is misleading. Coal is not cheap; its prices have increased over the last year due to export shocks and social costs. These costs will continue to rise... To see further information on coal prices, visit this energy justice link. Also linking at the bottom of this blog is a link to Santee Cooper's website describing their rates.

Coastal Observer
This Weeks Top Stories:
Santee Cooper: Electricity rate hearings become forum on coal plant
By Jackie R. Broach

“You may not believe it, but I don’t object to your rate increase,” said John Bracken of North Litchfield. “What I do object to is your intention to build a coal-fired power plant.”

Bracken was one of six people who addressed officials with the state-owned utility at a public hearing in Pawleys Island last week. Seven people spoke at a hearing on the rate increases in Murrells Inlet on Monday. A common complaint was that some of the money from the increases will go toward new generating facilities to meet the energy needs of a growing customer base. That includes a coal-fired plant on the Pee Dee River in Florence County.

The proposed plant would have “significant short- and long-term costs,” said Nancy Cave of the Coastal Conservation League, citing the cost of construction, fuel and fees for carbon emissions.“All of this will require continuous rate increases for years to come,” she said. “Instead, we ask Santee Cooper and its board to invest in programs that decrease energy use and increase the use of renewable energy and natural gas."

The proposed rate increase would take place over two years. Residential customers would see an average annual increase of 7.5 percent in their bills beginning in November and an another 7.6 percent in November 2010.

For a residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours a month, that would mean an extra $6.47 a month this year and another $8 a month when the second increase takes effect. If approved, the increase would be the utility’s first since 1996.

Molly Gore, a spokeswoman for the state-owned utility, said only a small percentage of the revenue will be directed toward the coal-fired plant. It comprises 1.5 percent of total non-fuel costs in 2010 and 2.2 percent in 2011. “We’ll actually be directing less toward that than we will our nuclear efforts,”
Gore said.

Coal is the most affordable fuel source and that’s why it’s a part of our mix,” Gore said.

The utility provides electricity directly to 163,000 customers in Georgetown, Horry and Berkeley counties. But it also serves 725,000 customers around the state who are served by electric cooperatives.

Santee Cooper has also proposed charging a higher rate for electricity from June through September. That also concerned Lacy, who worried about the effect it might have on tourism.“Are all these rental units going to have to deal with that?” she asked. “The owners of these places are going to have sky high billing and, in turn, will have to raise their rates when we’re in a tough economy.”

Joe Schoemann expressed similar worries at the hearing in Murrells Inlet. If the rate increases make his electric bill go up “even $30 or $40,” he said, “I have to take that from somewhere else, because I’m on a fixed income.”

The board will make a decision on the increases Aug. 24. Public comments can be submitted through July 5. For information, visit www.santeecooper.com/rates.

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