Santee Cooper considers rate increase for another two years

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Officials from Santee Cooper want to hear from their customers after a proposed rate increase.

“We’re trying to be very open and offer as much info to our customers as possible through this process,” says Santee Cooper Public Relations Specialist, Susan Mungo.

The rate increases would affect customers in a number of outlets – residential, commercial, and retials. Mungo says the number of customers who could potentially see a higher bill is just over 170,000.

The Board of Directors announced a two-year rate increase of 7.4%. Specifically, the proposal recommends increases of an average 3.5 percent in 2018 and 3.9 percent in 2019. Mungo said there are a few reasons for the increase.

“Some of the factors for that are slow load growth, nuclear construction along with other system improvements and also environmental compliance,” Mungo adds.

However, Mungo said the slow growth is not due to a lack of people along the Grand Strand.

“Actually, it is loss of load in the Upstate,” Mungo explains. “Even though we have more people coming to the Grand Strand and moving here, in the past, homes were all electric. Homes are no longer, for the majority, all electric homes.”

Environmental factors include upgrading vehicles to comply with emissions standards.

“We’re having to change equipment to make sure our emissions are brought to a certain level and those kinds of changes and that type of equipment are expensive,” says Mungo.

Around half of the money that would be collected from the increase would go to a nuclear site in the Midlands. In 2008, Santee Cooper and SCE&G signed a contract with Westinghouse Electric Company to build two nuclear-generating units. However, Westinghouse went bankrupt in March of this year and Santee Cooper now has to make a decision.

“It really caused a slow down of our progression with those nuclear units,” said Mungo.”What we’re trying to do now is assess the situation and see what the cost is moving forward for building one or two of the units and what the cost would be of putting things on halt.”

Santee Cooper is hosting five public comment meetings where customers can come and discuss the rate increase. They are all in August:

  • Aug. 14 at 6 p.m.: Santee Cooper Headquarters, 1 Riverwood Dr., Moncks Corner
  • Aug. 15 at 2 p.m.: North Myrtle Beach City Hall, 1120 Second Ave. South, North Myrtle Beach
  • Aug. 15 at 6 p.m.: Waccamaw Branch Georgetown County Library, 41 St. Paul Place, Pawleys Island
  • Aug. 16 at 2 p.m.: Santee Cooper Conway Office, 100 Elm St., Conway
  • Aug. 16 at 6 p.m.: Myrtle Beach Law Enforcement Center, 1101 N. Oak St., Myrtle Beach

You can also send comments on their website at www.santeecooper.com/rates or mail comments to Santee Cooper, Attn: Rates M301, P.O. Box 2946101, Moncks Corner, SC 29461.

According to a press release, the board will offer a “final opportunity for public comments on Friday, Oct. 13, and is scheduled to vote on the rate adjustment at its Dec. 11 meeting.”

The proposed rate increase for 2018 and 2019, follows a two-year price hike initiated by the utility company in December 2015. At that time, the board voted to increase rates for customers in 2016 and 2017. For the past two years, utility prices increased April 1 by an average of 3.7 percent. If Santee Cooper approves the proposed rate increases in December, it means the company’s customers will experience higher bills for four years straight.

Prior to 2016, Santee Cooper’s most recent rate hike was in 2013.