Starting this month, SCE&G customers will see a minimal reduction in their electric bills, as part of a long-term bill relief plan resulting from the company’s January merger with Dominion Energy, headquartered in Virginia.
This month’s rate change will affect residential electric customers who use 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month, slightly shifting bills from $125.34 to $124.91, according to a Dominion Energy press release. Since early 2018, the same customers have received a 15-percent bill reduction.
Statewide, SCE&G provides electricity to about 731,000 customers and natural gas service to roughly 379,000 customers. Dominion Energy services about 7.5 million customers in 18 states.
“The new billing levels are part of the recent combination of Dominion Energy with SCANA after a three-week public hearing before the Commission,” said Rodney Blevins, president and chief executive officer of Southeast Energy Group, in a statement.
Southeast Energy Group houses SCANA Corporation’s operating and services companies, which include SCE&G, now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dominion Energy, the release said.
The merger, which became official on Jan. 2, occurred in the wake of the two failed nuclear reactors at V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in Fairfield County. The $9 billion project, which commenced in 2008, was halted in July 2017. It was a joint effort among SCANA, Santee Cooper and owners of the nuclear generating station.
This month’s $1.07 bill credit for will occur annually through 2021. For the next two years, the credit will be reflected on January bills.
Bills will again decrease in May to reflect cost-recovery for fuel and Demand Side-Management (DMS) riders—which are “energy-efficient resources,” the release said. For a residential customer, the combined credit will total about $0.56 per month, lowering a monthly bill from $124.91 to $124.35.
From the merger, customers will also receive the benefit of federal tax reform, including a one-time credit this month related to benefits from 2018, said Dominion Energy officials.
In 2020, Dominion Energy said it plans to file a general rate case incorporating merger savings and changes in cost of service, among other items. Any changes the Commission approves will apply to all Jan. 1, 2021 bills, “in compliance with” the merger agreement to not touch base rates until that time.
Dominion Energy said it opted for the long-term bill relief plan instead of the initial merger proposal to hand out $1.3 billion in total cash refunds to SCE&G customers, who would have received $1,000 apiece.
“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 in the release. “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.
Officials said though they realize some customers will be “disappointed” by not seeing a large-sum refund, long-term relief is the overall better option. Because the rates were once among the region’s highest, and now below the national average, rate changes in the long-run will benefit the state by drawing in more new business, Blevins said.