The Public Service Commission unanimously approved SCE&G’s request to build two nuclear plants at the site of the existing V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in the Fairfield County town of Jenkinsville. The two reactors would cost nearly $10 billion. Members of the commission said that the utility had proven the need for the new facilities due to the estimated rise in demand for energy based on projected population increases and the growth of business and industry. SCE&G Public Affairs Manager Eric Boomhower says the utility’s application is based on 1.7 percent growth per year over the next 10 years.
“Certainly we’re pleased. I think… I can’t remember which commissioner said it, but the comment was that we had demonstrated the need for the power is there and that nuclear was the solution that provides the greatest economy and reliability with the least impact to the environment and I think that captures the essence of this whole process for us.”
Boomhower says the utility decided to go with nuclear power because it is clean, reliable and unlike coal, nuclear energy does not add to the carbon footprint of the region.
Boomhower says under the Base Load Review act of 2007, SCE&G can recover through rates the costs associated with financing the construction of the reactors. Boomhower says pending approval of the project by the N-R-C, construction could begin in 2011 with the second reactor going on line in 2019. Boomhower says the average rate increase over each year over the next decade would be 2.5 percent, however the P-S-C only approved the initial increase.
“The first increase would be an overall…about a point-4 percent increase that would go into effect at the end of march, this march. if you’re a residential customer and you say what is that going to do with my bill?, that first increase would equate to about a 48-cent increase if you were using a thousand kilowatt hours in a month.” Boomhower says the P-S-C would monitor the progress of the project and would have to approve subsequent rate increases.
Tom Clements of the environmental organization “Friends of the Earth” says the P.S.C. should have demanded that SCE&G do more to promote efficiency or alternative energy sources before approving the project.
That discussion on conservation and efficiency is just getting going in South Carolina and we don’t think we need new generating facilities especially not expensive new nuclear plants. and they’re approving these new facilities before the discussion is even getting underway. they should have asked the company to prepare an analysis on energy efficiency and conservation right now but instead they postponed it until June, but the decision has already been made.”
Clements says the P.S.C. has delivered to SCE&G what amounts to a blank check.
Bob Guild, an attorney for Friends of the Earth says the P.S.C. may have over stepped their bounds in their interpretation of the Base Load Review Act.
“It reversed a century of regulation which requires the companies to take risks, build plants and then come back and prove that they needed to build them. that building them was reasonable and prudent. Instead now, we have a law that allows the company to start building a plant and even if they cancel it at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, we’re obligated to pay the bill.”
Guild says he will study carefully the P.S.C.’s decision looking for grounds to appeal. Guild says any appeal would go directly to the South Carolina Supreme Court based on the large numbers of citizens affected by the utility.