- South Carolina public utility Santee Cooper's board of directors has approved a 2017 spending plan that it says holds operating and maintenance costs to current levels, but which local media reports says will raise rates for electric customers.
- The $3.2 billion budget includes $1.8 billion for power grid upkeep and $1.4 billion for capital expenditures, which sets aside $893.2 million to construct new nuclear generating units at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Generation Plant (pictured above), a move which attracted controversy in the past year. Another $286.7 million is slated to improve renewable generation and environmental controls.
- The Post and Courier says the new budget includes a 2.2% rate hike for residential electric power customers, but also increases credits for solar customers.
Over the summer, the utility's board moved to lock in the cost of developing two new units at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station by taking a fixed price option, and approved the sale of $831 million in revenue obligation bonds, primarily to fund nuclear development. Santee Cooper owns 45% of the nuclear expansion project, and investor-owned utility SCE&G owns 55%.
Now with its 2017 budget rolled out, it's clear the utility plans to keep expanding the nuclear plant. Santee Cooper CEO Lonnie Carter defended its investments in a statement, saying “even as our investment in expanding the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station grows, Santee Cooper employees are continuing to save money in operations and fuel spending."
The Post and Courier reports the new budget will boost credits for solar customers. Residential customers with rooftop panels will get a credit of $1.60/watt, up from $1.30/watt, the paper said. Customers signed up for Santee Cooper's community solar program will see per-watt credits rise from $1 to $1.40.
Last year, the board drew fire over its decision to increase fixed charges on residential solar customers, though they also included a package of rebates and credits.