South Carolina utilities debate V.C. Summer fate as 6-week deadline looms
- The two South Carolina electric utilities behind the canceled V.C. Summer nuclear project have very different approaches on how to move forward, with SCANA Corp. subsidiary South Carolina Electric & Gas preferring to walk away from the site entirely and state-run Santee Cooper looking for a potential buyer sometime in the future.
- As the Charleston Post & Courier reports, SCE&G could take a $2 billion tax write-off if it entirely abandons the project before the end of the year. Because Santee Cooper does not pay taxes, it prefers to try and recoup some investment.
- SCE&G has already developed a plan to replace the scuttled project, and argues that if it does not abandon the project by year-end, the tax write-off will lose about $200 million in value.
SCE&G and Santee Cooper are now debating what is best for customers on the hook for some portion of the failed nuclear project, but due to different corporate structures, their preferred alternatives are not aligned.
"We’re not going to allow those facilities, the work that has been done, to fall into disrepair. It’s going to have to be maintained," South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster reportedly said Tuesday. "Even if they're not completed right away, they can be completed later, so it's very important that they be maintained and not fall into disrepair."
But SCE&G must take a $2 billion tax write-off by the end of the year, or risk seeing it decline by $200 million. Some opponents of that plan note the utility has spent about $9 billion, and should seek to recover more. The Post & Courier article indicates most believe walking away entirely would be the smartest option. Santee Cooper, however, sees it otherwise, as a spokesperson noted the utility intends to sell its share or equipment from the project to offset costs.
That leaves just six weeks for the two utilities to find a solution before the value of the writeoff drops, and customers are faced with paying even more of the bill.
SCE&G owns 55% of its abandoned two-reactor expansion project at the VC Summer plant, while Santee Cooper owns the balance. Proposed in 2008, the expansion was supposed to cost less than $12 billion. But SCANA and Santee Cooper abandoned the project over the summer, already having spent $9 billion. They said completing construction would take years and costs could spiral to $25 billion.
Last week, SCE&G proposed rate changes and new generation investments related to the failed project, including lower rates, new gas and solar generation, and other accounting moves the company says will benefit ratepayers to the tune of $4.8 billion.
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