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Florence County farmer fighting power rate increases

March 21, 2019 GMT

FLORENCE, S.C. – Anthony Ward, a board member of the Florence County Farm Bureau, will ask the Florence County Council to hold the Public Service Commission and Duke Energy accountable for proposed rate increases by the power company.

Ward is the only public speaker listed on the agenda for Thursday’s meeting of the Florence County Council.

“Agriculture is the No. 1 industry in South Carolina, and we’re in shambles right now because of the floods in ’15, the hurricane in ’16, the two hurricanes in ’18, along with the rains that never stopped,” Ward said. “We’ve got farmers dropping like flies.”

Ward added that his father was on the Arbor One board, and he had seen farmers going out of business “left and right.” Some of the farmers are on the verge of bankruptcy, Ward said.

“It is a mess,” Ward said.

The proposed rate increases would only make the situation worse.

If the rate hike proposed by Duke were to go into effect, a “typical residential customer using 1,000 kWh” would see an increase of $17.91 per month beginning June 1, another $1.60 per month beginning June 1, 2020, and $1.81 per month on June 1, 2021.

The total increase after June 1, 2021 would be $21.32 per month. Duke Energy also has proposed an increase in its fixed monthly charges from $9.06 per month to $29 per month beginning June 1. This increase is reflected in the total monthly increase of $17.91.

In an e-mail, Duke spokesman Ryan Mosier said, “… part of the overall proposal is to bring the fixed basic facilities charge closer to representing the true costs of serving our South Carolina customers. This charge is intended to cover the cost of the facilities the company has installed in order to be able to deliver electricity to a customer’s home.”

Mosier added that the basic facilities charge does not vary with usage. He added that if only the basic facilities charge increase is approved, the increase will be offset by a decrease in the price per kilowatt hour, meaning the average bill should stay the same.

Ward said that farmers have “many, many” meters.

“It’s going to cost me a couple thousand dollars a year, and I’m a relatively small farmer,” Ward said. “So these guys that have 20 meters per farm that don’t use but very little electricity ... the base rate increase will cost them an additional $200 per year per meter.”

He said the farm bureau will ask the county council to support farmers and hold the Public Service Commission, which is tasked with approving or rejecting the rate increase, and Duke Energy accountable.

The council is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. in the County Council Chambers (Room 803) of the County Complex, located at 180 N. Irby St.

A public hearing on the rate increase has been scheduled for 6 p.m., Monday, April 1, in the Florence County Council Chambers.