As early as the end of the year, some Lowcountry residents could have a new power company. SCANA, the parent company of SCE&G, has announced a plan to merge with Virginia-based Dominion Energy.
SCANA and Dominion held a public meeting Oct. 2 in Beaufort County to discuss the merger. Approximately 60 residents attended, asking questions about Dominion’s customer benefit plan and other issues. Bluffton Monthly had a chance to talk with C. Ryan Frazier of Dominion Energy; here’s what he had to say.
Question. How does approval for the merger work?
Answer. The Dominion Energy-SCANA combination has been approved by the Georgia Public Service Commission, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and SCANA’s shareholders. The merger also has been cleared by the FTC. We still need approvals from the North Carolina Utilities Commission and the South Carolina Public Service Commission. Hearings began in North Carolina in October and begin in South Carolina in November.
Q. What company will be the parent company after the merger?
A. Dominion Energy, Inc. will be the parent company. SCANA and its principal operating companies — SCE&G, PSNC Energy and SCANA Energy — will be subsidiaries.
Q. Who will approve future consumer energy rate increases?
A. Any rate increases would have to be approved by the South Carolina Public Service Commission.
Q. Many are concerned about the way South Carolina’s failed nuclear reactors were managed. Why should residents trust Dominion will do better?
A. Dominion Energy runs its utilities safely, reliably and affordably. We balance customer interests with those of our shareholders while protecting the environment: Dominion has reduced its carbon intensity rate by 50 percent since 2000, and has ranked No. 1 or No. 2 for 10 years on Fortune’s list of Most Admired Companies in the Electric & Gas Utilities category.
Q. Ratepayers are still paying for nuclear plant problems like Three Mile Island and the Shoreham Nuclear Plant. Dominion says it’s going to pay off a portion of the billions SCE&G owes; what will this mean for customers?
A. SCE&G electric customers would receive $1.3 billion in up-front rate credits. This translates to about $1,000 per average residential electric customer. Dominion will further underwrite a $575 million pool for SCE&G to refund money collected for the V.C. Summer project, providing a bill reduction of about 7 percent for a typical resident. In addition, customers also would not have to pay for $1.7 billion in new nuclear costs incurred by SCE&G. Our plan would eliminate the costs related to V.C. Summer’s development in 20 years and be a permanent solution to South Carolina’s energy crisis.
Q: How much of the debt will have to be paid by ratepayers as we go forward for the next 20 to 30 years?
A. SCE&G would exclude from rate recovery about $1.4 billion in V.C. Summer costs and $360 million in regulatory assets, removing future customer obligation.
Q: The only energy alternative ratepayers have is to install rooftop solar panels. Will Dominion allow customers to connect solar panels to the grid to help control utility prices?
A. Installing private solar is not the only way customers can reduce their bills. We work with them to use energy wisely through conservation and efficiency. We also are recognized as a highly efficient operator, which helps keep down rates. When it comes to private solar, we will work with lawmakers, regulators and stakeholders to promote cleaner energy.
Q. If you will support solar, will you do full net metering? Currently, net metering is capped by state law at 2 percent.
A. We plan to work with lawmakers, regulators and other stakeholders to promote cleaner energy that is reliable, affordable, efficient and environmentally friendly.
Q. Will you reduce the amount paid to consumers for excess energy sent back to the grid?
A. We believe that private solar operators should be compensated fairly, in a way that does not unfairly affect other customers.
Q. Bills continue to rise regardless of what the utility does to control costs. Ratepayers do not benefit from community solar like those with rooftop solar. Will you allow solar connections through December 2020 to help consumers save money?
A. Because it is more cost-efficient, customers do benefit from large-scale universal solar. It often is cost-competitive with other new generation.
Q. Will you support SCE&G ratepayers in their attempt to recover the value of the severance packages that were paid out and will be paid out over the coming years to the senior employees who left the company?
A. Those are contractual obligations between SCANA and its executives. We are obligated to meet valid contracts.
Q. Your ads state that you are going to hold rates steady and even decrease them. How long is that going to last?
A. Retail electric base rates would be frozen until at least Jan. 1, 2021. Only the South Carolina Public Service Commission can authorize any rate changes.
Q. How will the merger affect the lawsuits that have been filed against SCANA?
A. It doesn’t.