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Santee Cooper cuts budget since it can’t raise power rates

March 28, 2022 GMT

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Sharply increasing fuel costs have led state-owned utility Santee Cooper to cut $100 million from its budget since it can’t increase electricity rates on its customers for three more years after its role in the failed building of two nuclear reactors.

Santee Cooper is still trying to identify exactly where the cuts will be made, but the utility doesn’t anticipate layoffs or job cuts, Santee Cooper spokeswoman Mollie Gore told The Post and Courier of Charleston.

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

Santee Cooper has seen fuel costs jump $130 million. Natural gas is seeing a sharp increase on the open market, while the company that he utility buys coal from has to temporarily shut down a mine, forcing Santee Cooper to pay steeper prices on the open market for coal as well, said Marty Watson, chief power supply office.

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The state-owned utility can’t increase 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 finished. Billions of dollars were put into constructing the reactors before they were abandoned in 2017.

The company that bought out the majority partner in the reactors, Dominion Energy, filed for a $142 million rate increase earlier this month because of increasing fuel costs.

“Unfortunately, right now we don’t have that ability,” Santee Cooper finance chief Ken Lott told the board Monday.