Dominion Energy in SC agrees to lower rate increase request

Dominion Energy customers are expected to see a slight increase in their electric rates, but not as high of a jump as the utility initially requested.

Dominion Energy, the Office of Regulatory Staff and other interested parties who intervened on the rate case pending in front of the Public Service Commission have filed a compromise on the utility’s rate increase request.

The utility initially asked to increase it rates by 7.68% which would have led to a $9.68 a month increase for the average customer. Instead Dominion agreed to a 1.46% increase, which will lead to a $1.81 a month increase for the average customer, according to a joint news release.

Dominion also agreed to set aside money to forgive past-due balances of more than 60 days, as of May 31 and to assist customers in financial need.

Under the agreement, the rate increase is expected to go into effect on Sept. 1.

The compromise was filed with the PSC, which was scheduled to take up the rate case again on July 12 after the parties in the case agreed in January to a six-month pause.

“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,” Rodney Blevins, president of Dominion Energy South Carolina, said in a statement

The agreement must be approved by the PSC, which regulates utilities in South Carolina.

Dominion, which serves 753,000 customers in the state, filed for its rate increase last year, something that upset customers as the pandemic led to a slowdown in the economy.

Under the agreement, Dominion promises not to request another increase until July 2023, which would go into effect in January 2024, unless there are “unforeseen extraordinary or financial conditions.”

Leading up to Dominion’s hearing, Gov. Henry McMaster called on the utility to withdraw its request.

As the rate hearings took place, Dominion saw opposition from environmental groups and large customers such as Walmart.

Ultimately, Nanette Edwards, the director of ORS, which represents the public interest in utility regulation, proposed pausing the hearing for six months, which Dominion agreed to do with the understanding the hearing would start again on July 12. This allowed the parties to work outside of the PSC hearing to come an agreement.

Dominion, which acquired SCANA Corp. in 2019, after it partnered in the failed V.C. Summer Nuclear Generating Station construction project, said the additional money is needed because it needs to recover the cost of improvements made to the system since 2012 to ensure reliability.

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Under the agreement, Dominion will use $15 million to forgive past-due balances of more than 60 days, as of May 31. All customers are eligible to participate and customer credits would take place within 90 days of a final PSC order, according to the news release.

Dominion also plans to use $15 million for energy efficiency upgrades and critical health and safety repairs in customers’ homes to allow those people to participate in efficiency programs offered by the utility.

The utility also agreed to set double its EnergyShare program funding to $1.5 million a year. The program provides bill pay assistance for customers in need and home upgrades that promote energy conservation, the news release said.

Customers will be able to apply for the assistance through Dominion’s website, dominionenergy.com/south-carolina.

“All parties listened, and we went to work on their behalf to reach this settlement agreement in their best interest,” said Teresa Arnold, the state director of the SC AARP, which was among the parties that intervened in the case.

Joseph Bustos is a state government and politics reporter at The State. He a Northwestern University graduate and previously worked in Illinois covering government and politics. He has won reporting awards in both Illinois and Missouri. He moved to South Carolina in November 2019.
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