Analysis shows removing charges for dividends from V.C. Summer would not push SCE&G into bankruptcy

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SCE&G customers could soon see lower power bills. Right now about 18 percent of customers’ monthly payments go toward the now-abandoned V.C. Summer Nuclear Construction project. The average customer pays about $27 a month for the project, but South Carolina lawmakers are trying to lower that.

SCE&G has claimed it could suffer severe financial consequences, including bankruptcy, if they’re no longer allowed to collect that money. However, a report commissioned by the South Carolina Senate suggests otherwise.

SCANA shareholders received $529 million dollars from the now-abandoned construction at V.C. Summer nuclear station. All of that money came straight from payments on customers’ bills. 

“It was not a surprise to me,” said S.C. Sen. Shane Massey, a Republican from Edgefield. “But I think it has really angered a lot of people, and they’ve seen just how much of those nuclear rates are going to shareholders.”

Last year, shareholders recouped about $10 million a month in dividends from the project, according to an analysis by consulting firm Bates White

The firm says if SCE&G cuts out those dividends, it could reduce the monthly charge of about 18 percent of customers bills to about five percent without risking financial ruin for the company. That would be a savings of about 20 dollars a month for the average customer.

So where would the remaining five percent go?

“Part of it is going to service debt, going to pay off the bondholders,” Massey said. “They floated bonds to finance the project– part of it’s going to that. Most of it is going to shareholders.”

Cutting bills by that 13 percent would  just cut off the dividends to shareholders.

Massey proposed doing just that– at least through the end of the year, when the Public Service Commission would decide on permanent rates.

After a lengthy discussion two weeks ago, the Senate adopted Massey’s amendment to slash rates 13 percent.

“It may take us a little while to get there, but we can pass it,” he said. “And I expect that will happen next week.”

After that, it would have to go to the House, and then to Gov. McMaster’s desk. But the governor has said he will veto any legislation that does not remove all 18 percent of the nuclear charges.

Massey says he didn’t push to get all the charges removed because he says the company will object to that in court, and he’s not sure that the state would win.

“If I thought we could pull it out and customers would get all that money back, I’d do it in a heartbeat,” he said. “I just don’t think we could win that.”

Massey says customers could see lower rates as soon as May if legislation passes quickly. 

A rep from SCE&G parent company SCANA did not immediately respond to a request for a comment. We will let you know if and when they do.

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