SCE&G bills to start going down
by The Press and Standard | February 14, 2019 5:00 am
Last Updated: February 13, 2019 at 9:21 am
Beginning with the month’s billing cycle, customers of South Carolina Electric and Gas are going to feel the effect of the sale of the utility company.
It will be a good feeling.
Customers of SCE&G, now a wholly owned subsidiary of Dominion Energy, will begin seeing the benefits of the merger reflected in their monthly energy bills in the form of long-term lower electric bills.
“Dominion Energy committed to the Public Service Commission (Commission) of South Carolina that SCE&G customers will continue to experience savings on their electric bills as a result of Dominion Energy’s levelized Customer Benefits Plan,” said Rodney Blevins, president and chief executive officer of the Southeast Energy Group, which houses SCANA Corporation’s operating and services companies, including SCE&G.
“The new billing levels are part of the recent combination of Dominion Energy with SCANA after a three-week public hearing before the Commission.”
Benefits to customers resulting from the merger include the following:
• Typical residential electric customers using 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month will see their bills drop from the current temporary level of $125.34 per month to $124.91 per month. This decrease places into effect bills that are now 15 percent below levels that were in effect in January 2018, prior to the temporary experimental reduction under Act 258 of the South Carolina General Assembly.
• Natural gas customers will receive $2.45 million in bill credits in total over three years, producing an average bill credit of $1.07 for a residential customer in 2019, with similar credits in 2020 and 2021.
The annual credit for 2019 has been applied to February bills. The annual credits for 2020 and 2021 will be applied to customer bills for the January billing cycle in each of those years.
The benefit of federal tax reform is being passed on to customers. This will include a one-time credit in February bills to pass on the benefits related to 2018.
Ongoing savings are reflected in rates beginning in February and are included in the $124.91 bill level.
Additionally, customers will see the following reductions to their electric bills beginning in May, subject to regulatory approvals:
• $0.36 per month for a typical residential customer stemming from a Jan. 31 filing regarding Demand Side Management programs (DSM), which are energy-efficiency resources.
• $0.20 per month for a typical residential customer from a Feb. 8 fuel cost adjustment proposal filed with the Commission.
• A total of $0.56 per month for a typical residential customer when the fuel and DSM cost-recovery proposals are combined, which would lower such a customer’s monthly bill from $124.91 to $124.35.
In addition to annual DSM and fuel-adjustment filings, the company will file a general rate case in mid-2020 that will incorporate merger savings and changes in cost of service, among other things.
Any changes to rates approved by the Commission affecting customers’ monthly bills would take effect Jan. 1, 2021, in compliance with Dominion Energy’s merger commitment to freeze base rates until then.
In recent weeks, the company has received questions about the status of up-front cash refunds that were a key feature of the original merger proposal.
The Customer Benefits Plan Dominion Energy originally proposed in conjunction with the merger included an offer to provide SCE&G electric customers a one-time cash payment totaling $1.3 billion, which would have been a $1,000 cash payment to the average residential customer.
Over the course of the regulatory proceedings held by the state late last year, the company became aware of significant support from policymakers and other key stakeholders for a plan that focused more on long-term bill relief instead of up-front cash refunds.
“After listening to policymakers and other key participants, we developed and offered a plan to lower bills as much as we could while still providing equivalent or greater value for customers,” Blevins said. “While this option eliminated the one-time payment of $1,000 for an average residential customer as we originally proposed, it produced a significantly larger decrease to electric bills.”
“We understand some customers will be disappointed that refund checks are not included in the final approved plan, but we believe customers and South Carolina will benefit from the lower payments,” Blevins added.
“The lower electric bills will also help make South Carolina more competitive in attracting new business to the state by taking SCE&G’s bills from among the highest in the region to levels near the regional average, and well below the national average,” he explained.