Rate increase brings higher utility bills for thousands

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) – The new rate increase will affect about 165,000 homes in Horry and Georgetown Counties.

Santee Cooper's board of directors approved the rate adjustment during Tuesday's meeting. Starting this December, customers can expect to pay more on their utility bill.

Santee Cooper announced the possibility of raising rates back in June of this year. Since then, they held six public meetings to discuss the adjustment and to hear from customers.

Nicole Aiello, spokeswoman for Santee Cooper said during Tuesday's meeting, the board of directors took those concerns into account. Ultimately though deciding to forgo the rate increase affecting residential commercial, industrial and lighting customers.

New government regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency is costing Santee Cooper hundreds of millions of dollars to comply according to Aiello. Higher rates for customers will help cover the cost of meeting EPA's regulations and for taking on a costly nuclear project.

"We're diversifying our energy mix and  building nuclear right now with SCENG and that's a very expensive project to start," explained Aiello.

The first rate increase will start on the first of December followed by another rate increase exactly one year later in 2013. Starting this December, on average, homes will pay about $5.60 more a month, which adds up to close to $68 a year.

Then starting in December 2013, the next rate increase takes into effect. The average home will pay about $6.29 a month and adds up to $75 more a year.

Santee Cooper's rising operating cost is forcing them to review rates

"Our rates group is constantly looking several years ahead to make sure we can cover our costs as a company and make sure we can provide reliable low cost service to our customers. So there's no guarantee one way or the other," said Aiello.

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