Santee Cooper proposes rate hike for customers

MONCKS CORNER, SC (WCSC) - The Santee Cooper Board of Directors approved a public comment period on Monday  for a proposed rate adjustment recommended by the utility's management, which would cause a 3.5% increase for customers each of the next two years.

As proposed, the first adjustment would take effect Dec. 1, 2012, and the second, on Dec. 1, 2013.

Santee Cooper officials say the adjustments are needed to help 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.

"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."

Santee Cooper officials said under this 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, officials said.

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