COLUMBIA, SC – July 2, 2021 – The Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS), along with the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), AARP, Frank Knapp, Jr., the Sierra Club, the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and Dominion Energy South Carolina (DESC) are pleased to announce a comprehensive settlement in the utility’s electric rate case before the Public Service Commission of South Carolina (Commission).
The result of months of good faith negotiations, the settlement filed this morning provides significant customer benefits while ensuring continued delivery of affordable, reliable and increasingly sustainable electricity. The settlement is subject to review and approval by the Commission.
“On behalf of ORS, I appreciate everyone’s diligence and persistence in reaching this settlement agreement, which was only made possible thanks to the additional time the Commission afforded us,” said Nanette Edwards, ORS executive director.
“We are thankful for the partnership of interested parties involved in this matter,” said SCDCA Administrator and Consumer Advocate Carri Grube Lybarker. “We believe the negotiations led to a well-rounded, creative resolution containing consumer-friendly measures that otherwise would not be available through a formal proceeding.”
If adopted by the Commission, residential customers would see a net 1.46% increase in rates, starting Sept. 1, 2021. For a typical residential customer, that would mean a bill increase of only $1.81 a month.
DESC also is committing up to $30 million in shareholder funds to support vulnerable and economically distressed customers at no cost to ratepayers. Support will be provided in the following ways:
- Up to $15 million will be used to forgive past due balances of more than 60 days, as of May 31, 2021. All customers are eligible to participate. Customer credits would take place within 90 days of a final PSC order.
- $15 million will be dedicated to energy efficiency upgrades and critical health and safety repairs to customer homes, which will allow those homes to participate in money-saving efficiency programs offered by the company. The funds will be administered by the South Carolina Office of Economic Opportunity, which also administers federal weatherization programs.
- DESC agreed to double its annual commitment to EnergyShare, the company’s year-round assistance program, setting funding at $1.5 million for 2021 and 2022. This includes $500,000 for small businesses, which is a new benefit the program offers. EnergyShare provides bill pay assistance for customers in need and home upgrades that promote energy conservation.
- DESC also agreed to keep its fixed monthly charge under $10. The current fee is $9, and the settlement fee is $9.50. Any other increase will depend on how much electricity a customer uses. Keeping fixed costs low helps customers manage their bills and encourages energy conservation efforts.
If approved by the Commission, the settlement would result in a net annual revenue increase of approximately $35.6 million (approximately $61.6 million net of accelerated return of excess deferred income taxes) based on a 9.5% return on equity, 51.62% equity capitalization and rate base of $5.75 billion. The company had requested a revenue increase of $178 million and a return on equity of 10.25%. The company agreed not to file another general rate case for two years, absent unforeseen circumstances.
"Our members, in remarkable numbers, testified in January to the Public Service Commission about their concerns regarding rates,” said Teresa Arnold, AARP SC state director. “All parties listened, and we went to work on their behalf to reach this settlement agreement in their best interest. Now, we are elated to tell our members that at the end of a six-month pause initiated by the ORS, after thoughtful negotiations with Dominion, the average household will only pay $1.81 more a month.”
Rodney Blevins, president of Dominion Energy South Carolina, said the settlement was an accomplishment all parties could be proud of.
“I want to thank the Commission for pausing the proceeding and encouraging all parties to work to achieve consensus,” Blevins said. “Reaching a consensus on a comprehensive settlement with all parties is a remarkable achievement and confirms that groups with varied interests can still achieve agreement on matters important to utility regulation in this state while keeping our rates below the national average. We are sincerely grateful to all parties for the spirit of cooperation, patience and compromise that they brought to these negotiations.”
Additional intervening parties in Docket 2020-125-E are the South Carolina Energy Users Committee, the Department of Defense and Walmart Inc.