Santee Cooper cuts budget because it can’t raise electricity rates

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Soaring fuel costs have led state-owned Santee Cooper to cut $100 million from its budget because it cannot raise electricity rates for customers for three years after its role in the failed construction of two nuclear reactors.

Santee Cooper is still trying to identify exactly where the cuts will be made, but the public service does not anticipate any layoffs or job cuts, Santee Cooper spokeswoman Mollie Gore told the Charleston Post and Courier.

At Santee Cooper’s board meeting on Monday, officials suggested taking $30 million from operations and maintenance and $70 million from capital projects.

Santee Cooper saw fuel costs jump by $130 million. Natural gas is seeing a surge in the open market, while the company it buys coal from has to temporarily close a mine, forcing Santee Cooper to also pay higher open market prices for coal, Marty Watson said , food office manager.

The utility cannot raise rates until 2025 under a rate freeze approved by the General Assembly after Santee Cooper was the minority partner in a pair of nuclear reactors that were never completed. Billions of dollars were invested in the construction of the reactors before they were abandoned in 2017.

The company that bought out majority partner in the reactors, Dominion Energy, requested a $142 million rate increase earlier this month due to rising fuel costs.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have that capability at this time,” Santee Cooper chief financial officer Ken Lott told the board Monday.


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