The South Carolina Supreme Court on Monday ruled that SCE&G customers should not have to pay higher rates while the company constructs two nuclear reactors at a cost of $10 billion. The project is underway in Jenkinsville, 25 miles north of Columbia, in conjunction with Santee Cooper. The company is charging an average of 2.5 percent more each year over a decade.
The high court ruled that the South Carolina Public Service Commission should not have approved the rate hike since the increase was for a contingency fund. The South Carolina Energy User’s Commission, made up of industrial customers, argued that the $438 million contingency fund should not be included in the company’s construction estimates.
Attorney Bob Guild has filed cases with the high court from citizen’s groups concerning the SCE&G rate hike to fund the reactor project. He says the court has reversed a decision by regulators that gave the utility a blank check.
Several months before Monday’s decision, Guild, on behalf of another organization, Friends of the Earth, challenged the legality of a Public Service Commission decision that approved the SCE&G application to build the reactors. Guild believes that it was the first challenge in the nation to a type of state law which forces consumers to pay for nuclear projects in advance, even if the projects fail. The high court overruled that challenge.
SCE&G has said that its rate increase to fund the project would benefit consumers by saving billions in interest costs over time.