Santee Cooper won’t finish nuclear project, but will your power bills still increase?

A recent photo of SCE&G/Santee Cooper's $14 billion nuclear expansion project in Fairfield County.
A recent photo of SCE&G/Santee Cooper's $14 billion nuclear expansion project in Fairfield County. Courtesy High Flyer

Santee Cooper’s decision Monday to suspend its role in the construction of two new nuclear reactors will not change the utility’s decision to move forward with a price hike proposal for retail customers in Horry and Georgetown Counties, a spokeswoman said.

“The decision today does not change the current rate study. We need to repay the money we already borrowed for the project,” said Nicole Aiello, public relations director for the utility.

The state-owned electricity provider along with South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. cited numerous reasons for suspending the construction in Jenkinsville, including massive cost overruns and a decrease in demand for nuclear energy.

Santee Cooper officials say they will look for buyers to take over the project, which has already cost their customers $4.7 billion.

If the utility had agreed to continue construction, the total cost would have been well over budget at $11.4 billion, more than double the utility’s original commitment of $5.1 billion.

The total cost of the project with investment from SCE&G was $14 billion.

Meanwhile, public hearings scheduled for this month to discuss the proposed rate increase will be held as planned.

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.

Those are in addition to price increases that went into effect in April and in 2016.

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.

Audrey Hudson: 843-444-1765, @AudreyHudson