Electric rates may soon rise, but before Santee Cooper enacts a recommended hike the power company will listen to customers in a series of public comment meetings starting Thursday.
Santee Cooper, the states largest power company, last increased rates in 2009 by an average 3.4 percent, according to company spokeswoman Mollie Gore. This is only the second time a rate change has been recommended in 15 years.
The proposed increases would raise rates by an average of 3.5 percent in each of the next two years, Gore said.
The proposed rate changes would mean a bill increase of about $5.60 a month in the first year for a typical residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours of energy a month. In the second year, the rate would mean on average another $8.29 a month.
The audience at the public comment meetings will first see a presentation explaining why the company is considering the price increases. Members of the executive management team will then answer questions and hear comments.
The first meeting is Thursday at Santee Coopers Conway office at 100 Elm Street starting at 6 p.m. On Friday, another meeting will be held at 2 p.m. at Coastal Carolina Universitys Waccamaw Higher Education Center in Litchfield at 1690 Willbrook Boulevard.
All comments will be given to the board before the vote deciding if rates will jump this September. If the vote passes, the rates would increase starting on Dec. 1.
New standards by the Environmental Protection Agency and the construction of two nuclear power units with SCE&G are the driving factors in the recommendation, Gore said.
The EPA regulations on air emissions have the Grainger Steam Plant in an idle state, Gore said. The building is being maintained, but has not generated any power since December. Gore said major and expensive upgrades would be required before operations could resume.
The nuclear plants are critical to the companys long term plans to diversify fuel generation and will help maintain low cost electric in the future, Gore said.
While rates may be jumping, Gore said the company is committed to helping customers reduce total energy consumption.
Were not a business, were a state agency, she said. We are a public power company and ultimately were trying to do the best for customers. We dont have stock holders and were not in business to earn a profit.
Energy audit services are available to show how much energy the home uses and how to reduce that amount. Other tips are available at reducetheuse.com
Comments can be sent by mail or email by July 23. To download a form visit santeecooper.com/rates.
Gore said there hasnt been a lot of response so far, but the few that did said times are still tough.
In general, I think they are pointing out that the economy is still not where wed all like it to be, she said. These are still tough economic times. Thats one reason we have emphasized our own cost controls and cutting everything here to put the recommendation off as long as we could. We know its a tough time. June 21, 6:30 p.m., Santee Cooper Conway office, 100 Elm St., Conway.
On June 25, a public comment meeting will be at the Old Santee Canal Park Interpretive Center in Moncks Corner at 6:30 p.m.
Then on June 26, two meetings are planned for the Grand Strand. At 2 p.m. at North Myrtle Beach City Hall on 2nd Avenue South and at 6:30 p.m. at the Myrtle Beach Law Enforcement Center at 1101 North Oak Street.
Contact AMANDA KELLEY at 626-0381.