Walmart, environmentalists in opposition to Dominion SC fee hike

Within the first day of an almost week-long listening to over Dominion Vitality’s electrical energy charges, the utility obtained push again on Tuesday from a big-box retailer chain, environmental conservationists and a seniors advocacy group over a proposed worth hike.

Dominion is asking the Public Service Fee to approve a 7.7% fee improve for its 753,000 South Carolina clients the place the typical residential buyer would see a $9.68 improve per 30 days. The Virginia-based firm, which acquired SCANA in 2019, mentioned the extra cash is required due to enhancements made to the system since 2012 to make sure reliability.

Dominion bought SCANA after the Cayce-based utility partnered with Santee Cooper in a failed $9 billion V.C. Summer time nuclear plant growth undertaking.

However Dominion’s request comes at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the economic system.

“Dominion Vitality is totally conscious of the instances inside which all of us reside and we all know that the pandemic has been arduous on everybody,” mentioned Dominion lawyer Chad Burgess. “It’s been powerful mentally, it’s been powerful bodily, and definitely it’s been powerful financially.”

However, he added, Dominion is a dependable utility for protecting the facility on, or bringing it again shortly throughout an electrical energy outage. That reliability is due to $3.2 billion in system infrastructure enhancements since 2012, Burgess mentioned. “It’s indeniable that clients are having fun with the advantage of these property.”

Dominion is asking to have a 10.25% revenue margin, the identical margin permitted in 2012. Burgess mentioned the corporate solely has been bringing in 5.9% return on its fairness.

“An precise return of 5.9% is way too low to help the protected and dependable method during which Dominion Vitality operates its electrical system, and which our clients have turn into accustomed to over time and count on from us,” Burgess mentioned.

Throughout its opening assertion, the Workplace of Regulatory Employees, a state utility watchdog, mentioned Dominion’s requested revenue margin exceeds nationwide averages and return on equities permitted by the PSC.

Within the final fiscal yr, the PSC permitted a 9.5% return on fairness for Duke Vitality Progress and Duke Vitality Carolinas. Within the 12-month interval that ended on Sept. 30, Duke Vitality Carolinas reported a 5.82% revenue margin. Duke Vitality Progress had a 3.95% return on fairness, in accordance with paperwork supplied by ORS.

Massive stakeholders within the state additionally pushed again in opposition to Dominion’s request.

Large field retail chain Walmart objected to Dominion’s request saying its requested revenue margin is simply too excessive, citing the present financial local weather.

Walmart lawyer Stephanie Eaton known as on the PSC to OK a fee of return nearer to the median return on fairness.

Kate Mixson, a lawyer for the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, advocated for low-income residential clients throughout the day’s opening statements, objecting to the elevated flat fee fees. Larger fastened fees scale back the inducement for patrons to be extra vitality environment friendly or attempt to decrease vitality prices, corresponding to placing in rooftop photo voltaic panels.

”We’re involved that Dominion’s proposal might additional exacerbate affordability points, each within the brief and long run and ask the fee to maintain affordability in thoughts over the course of those proceedings and reject the proposed improve to the residential fundamental amenities cost,” Mixson mentioned.

The AARP additionally objected to the rise flat cost for the utility’s fastened bills. As an alternative the the AARP mentioned the these fees needs to be based mostly on a buyer’s utilization.

“Not solely is that this an unpopular option to cost residential clients, it takes away the management that clients have over their payments discouraging conservation,” mentioned John Coffman, an lawyer for AARP.

The Sierra Membership has considerations Dominion continues to depend on coal vitality, and mentioned the utility must conduct an financial evaluation of its coal vegetation.

“Now if these coal vegetation are already shedding cash, and prone to proceed to lose cash into the longer term, then this fee and the ratepayers must know that earlier than it commits extra ratepayer cash to protecting these coal vegetation on-line, particularly within the present financial local weather,” mentioned Dori Jaffe, an lawyer with the Sierra Membership.

Joseph Bustos is a state authorities and politics reporter at The State. He a Northwestern College graduate and beforehand labored in Illinois protecting authorities and politics. He has gained reporting awards in each Illinois and Missouri. He moved to South Carolina in November 2019.
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