Power company South Carolina Electric & Gas said it plans to eventually resubmit a plan that would attempt to recover more than $2 billion in costs at its failed nuclear reactor project through customers’ bills.
The utility withdrew its plan Wednesday that sought to recover $4.9 billion through a combination of tax deductions, settlement with bankrupt lead contractor Westinghouse, and $2.2 billion from ratepayers over the next 60 years. But Kevin Marsh, the CEO of SCE&G’s holding company SCANA, said on a call with investors Wednesday that was only done to allow time for state lawmakers to meet and hold hearings on what happened.
“There’s simply not a provision in the law that allows us to (delay the filing),” Marsh said Wednesday. “So the appropriate way was to withdraw the application. And I fully expect at an appropriate time in the future we will re-file that.”
Both the state House and Senate have created special committees to investigate the failure of a massive nuclear project at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Generating Station in Fairfield County. SCE&G had a 55 percent ownership stake in the project, while state-owned utility Santee Cooper had a 45 percent share.
Marsh said SCE&G “didn’t draw any lines in the sand” with lawmakers about how long it would wait before re-filing.
Customers have already paid $1.4 billion for the scuttled project through rate increases which now total 18 percent of their monthly bills. The utility had sought permission from the commission to switch those rate increases into abandonment costs. State law allows the transition, but only if the commission deems the costs “prudent.” The commission had planned a meeting this fall to discuss the plan.
Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Addison said the utility wants to talk to state lawmakers before taking its next steps. “If you think about all these folks who have now been thrust into the process, this is not what they do every day,” he said on the call. “And what they want is to be educated on the process and have their chance for input. And we respect completely that and will comply with it.”
In answering a question from one analyst, Marsh did not rule out restarting the project with a new company other than Santee Cooper. But he said it is very unlikely and would add another year to the construction timeline. “It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight,” he said. “There would be significant negotiations to pull a project team back together. Then, once you’ve done that, you would then have to assemble the construction team and the oversight team back on site.”