Myrtle Beach area residents and businesses are facing yet another price increase in electricity costs, which if passed would make it four hikes in as many years.
Santee Cooper raised electricity prices for retail users last year and again in April, but now say additional increases are needed for the state-run utility to pay for higher expenses expected in the coming years.
Before the final decision is made by a board of directors vote on Dec. 11, numerous public hearings will be held in August across the Grand Strand area for residents and business owners to comment on the proposal.
The state-owned electric and water utility is the provider for 172,000 customers in Horry County, plus customers in Georgetown and Berkeley counties.
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Mollie Gore, spokeswoman for Santee Cooper, says a rate increase has been under consideration by the utility’s board since March, and that a study was commissioned to determine if the additional revenue was needed.
“The rate study resulted in management making some recommendations to the board for rate increases,” Gore said.
The utility is seeking a rate increase for next year of 4.6 percent for residents, plus an additional 4.8 percent increase in 2019.
For commercial users, the increase would be 4.8 percent next year and another 4.8 percent in 2019.
In 2016, the average rate increase was 5.3 percent across the board, plus a raise of 2.7 percent in April, Gore said.
The primary reasons for raising rates are because of costs associated with nuclear construction, meeting federal environmental regulation standards, and other system improvements, according to a statement released by the utility.
Two nuclear reactors are under construction near Jenkinsville, S.C.
Additionally, the increase in price is due to a reduction in demand for electricity that has resulted from more energy-efficient homes and appliances, Gore said.
“We have a number of energy-efficiency programs that have been very successful, and that drives demand,” Gore said.
Most of the electricity produced by Santee Cooper is sold wholesale to users like the Horry Electric Cooperative.
“But they are not impacted by this, this is a retail rate recommendation,” Gore said.
On Aug. 15, a hearing will be held at 2 p.m. at city hall in North Myrtle Beach at 1120 2nd Ave. South, and a 6 p.m. hearing will be held at the Waccamaw Beach Georgetown County Library in Pawleys Island on 41 St. Paul Place.
On Aug. 16, a 2 p.m. hearing will be held in Conway at the Santee Cooper office on 100 Elm St., and a 6 p.m. hearing is scheduled for Myrtle Beach at the law enforcement center on 1101 North Oak St.
The deadline for comment on the proposed increase is Sept. 22. For those who cannot attend the meeting, comments can be mailed to Santee Cooper, Attention Rates M301, 1 Riverwood Drive, Moncks Corner, S.C. 29461. Comments can also be posted online here.