UPDATE: Jan. 5, 2021: South Carolina regulators published a final order on Dec. 23 rejecting Dominion Energy South Carolina's proposed 2020 Integrated Resource Plan, directing the utility to remodel its analysis and include more short-term projections.
Dominion failed to include a demand side management resource option or purchased power in its IRP, and did not model renewable energy additions prior to 2026. The utility must also model coal retirement prior to 2028, according to the Public Service Commission.
UPDATE: Dec. 17, 2020: Dominion South Carolina filed a proposal with regulators that would reduce the solar export rate for net metering customers, and add grid access charges and a monthly subscription cost for solar homeowners.
Solar and clean energy advocates, such as the Solar Energy Industries Association, claim the proposed changes ignore the intent of South Carolina's 2019 Energy Freedom Act, which prompted utilities for net metering successor plans.
But Dominion said the recent proposals comply with the state legislature's "expectations to reform the current model so that it better aligns benefits with cost of service and addresses important changes in the industry as a whole," according to a spokesperson.
- The South Carolina Public Service Commission unanimously rejected a three-year integrated resource plan from Dominion Energy on behalf of the former South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G), requiring changes from the utility, including more renewable energy resources.
- As the new owner of SCANA Corp. and its utility subsidiary, SCE&G, Dominion also sought a 7.7% rate hike, which was opposed by Gov. Henry McMaster. On Nov. 24, McMaster wrote Rodney Blevins, president of Dominion's South Carolina utility, urging the company to reconsider "in the midst of a pandemic." The increase remains pending before the PSC.
- Dominion's proposed IRP did not include changes for renewable energy resources in the three-year time frame in the eight different plans drafted as part of the filing, although the utility was seen as following the direction of the state's Energy Freedom Act. Regulators also directed Dominion to evaluate a high demand-side management scenario in future filings, and "to begin showing coal retirement" in its 2023 IRP, after finishing their coal retirement study.
PSC Chairman Justin Williams made a motion to require significant changes in the proposed plan, specifically to remodel the costs of the various plans Dominion drafts using the South Carolina Solar Business Alliance's specified cost and capacity assumptions for its 2020 IRP.
"We will thoroughly review the Public Service Commission’s final order on the IRP and make necessary revisions in a timely manner," Dominion spokesperson Rhonda Maree O'Banion said.
Dominion must file the modified IRP within 60 days from the final order on Dec. 23. Given that the updated version will inform Dominion's 2021 IRP, the PSC voted to set a new filing date for the subsequent plan following the approval of the 2020 IRP.
"The Short-Term Action Plan included with the Modified 2020 IRP should include steps or planning necessary to achieve adoption rates of DSM consistent with the most economically viable and achievable levels of projected DSM," the order said.
The utility is asked to conduct a "loss of load expectation study," to model the reserve requirements needed by the utility. The IRP must also show "the range of cost impacts to consumers, including both as potential additional revenue requirements and bill impacts on the various scenarios modeled."
Dominion was instructed to coordinate with the the South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) to begin establishing a stakeholder process for the new plan.
According to the ORS, which is also an intervenor in the rate case, customer bills in 2021 would increase to $131.99 per month from the current $122.31, yielding a total revenue increase of $178 million.
The PSC did not address the impact of COVID-19 with respect to the rate increase. However, Gov. McMaster wrote that the increase needed to be considered in the "appropriate context" of Dominion's success.
"[I]t is my understanding that Dominion's parent company has a current market capitalization of over $60 billion and appears to be on track to issue one of its largest years of dividends to shareholders in recent history," he wrote.
"We recognize that there may never be an ideal time to request a rate review. We have been helping our customers who are struggling financially through the pandemic," O'Banion said.
McMaster had also written that he appreciated "Dominion's willingness to invest in South Carolina, as well as Dominion's ongoing efforts to repair the damage done by its predecessor," SCANA, which faces several charges for fraud regarding the abandoned V.C. Summer nuclear project.
Dominion, which had announced plans in May to pay securities penalties for the abandoned nuclear project that SCANA and the former SCE&G had been involved in, formalized an agreement at the beginning of December to pay the $25 million penalty for civil remedies on behalf of SCANA.
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of South Carolina brought forward criminal charges as well as the multimillion civil fine against SCANA. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a complaint in February alleging SCANA, SCE&G and two former executives had known that the V.C. Summer project was behind and unlikely to qualify for the more than $1 billion in tax credits that had been promised to investors.
“Shareholders were deceived by SCANA and robbed of millions upon millions of dollars,” said U.S. Attorney Peter McCoy, Jr. in a statement.
Through the agreement, SCANA and SCE&G neither admitted nor denied allegations. Litigation continues against SCANA's former CEO Kevin Marsh and former executive vice president Stephen Byrne.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the date by which Dominion South Carolina's 2020 IRP must be refiled. Dominion South Carolina's 2020 IRP must be refiled within 60 days of the final order's publication on Dec. 23. A previous headline for this article misstated the scope of the PSC order, which is a rejection of the Dominion 2020 IRP.