Letters to the Editor

Utility rates keep rising with no checks in place

I have been reading articles in the newspaper and listening to reports on the radio and television, that the South Carolina Public Service Authority, also known as Santee Cooper, has proposed rate increases effective on Dec. 1, 2012 and again on Dec. 1, 2013.

The Aug. 24, 2009, Santee Cooper news release said “The Santee Cooper Boards of Directors voted today to enact an overall average 3.4 percent base rate increase beginning Nov. 1, 2009 to offset rising costs of operating and maintaining the utility’s generation, transmission and distribution facilities.” It went on: “Specifically, the Santee Cooper board approved an average increase for residential customers of 7.6 percent beginning Nov. 1, 2009, which equals an average monthly bill increase of $6.59 for a residential customer consuming 1,000 kilowatt hours a month. Commercial customers would see average annual increases of 5.7 percent, and industrial customers would face average annual increases of 1 percent.”

However, for the average Santee Cooper residential customer, the rate on Nov 1, 2009, went from 6.32 to 8.88 cents per kwh, an increase of 40.5 percent per kwh. Santee Cooper also included an increase of 1 cent per kwh, for the summer months (June, July, August, September). That increase from 6.32 to 9.88 cents per kwh resulted in an increase of 56.3 percent per kwh for the summer months.

In the May 21, 2012 news release, Santee Cooper stated “The adjustments are needed to help Santee Cooper meet increased costs associated with new generation, primarily the ongoing V.C. Summer Nuclear Station expansion, and to comply with new environmental regulations. The proposal would increase rates for customers an average 3.5% in each of the next two years. Under the proposal, a typical residential customer using 1000 kwh of energy a month would see his or her bill increase $5.60 a month in year one, and an additional $8.29 a month in year two.” The Dec 1, 2012, proposed 3.5 percent increase will result in a 5.4 percent increase per kwh.

Santee Cooper is South Carolina’s state-owned electric and water utility, and the state’s largest power producer. According to its 2011 annual report, “As authorized by State law, the Board sets rates charged to customers to pay debt service and operating expenses and to provide funds required under bond covenants.” The board of directors doesn’t report to anyone at the state level, so they don’t need anyone’s approval to raise the rates. There is no public service commission to review and approve or deny their rate increases. The only way to control the rate increases is to the change the 1934 law that established the SCPSA. Only the South Carolina legislature can make that change and we haven’t heard them say a word about any of these increases.

In the current economy, with so many individuals struggling to make ends meet, every Santee Cooper customer should be as concerned as I am about these increases. And if past history is any indication of what Santee Cooper will do with rates in the future, then we all should start contacting our South Carolina state representatives to get the 1934 law changed.

The writer lives in Pawleys Island.