AARP Eye Center
Did you know that South Carolina law allows utility companies to force consumers to pay for billions in cost overruns for big projects like building a nuclear power plant? It sounds shocking, but the Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) just published a report showing that SCE&G's VC Summer project has cost $1.5 billion more than originally estimated. And guess who is footing the bill? South Carolina consumers, many of whom live on modest incomes and cannot afford these additional costs. The law needs to change. Why should utilities like SCE&G even try and control costs on power plant projects, since the financial risk is borne by consumers and not the company? In addition, why is there no provision to allow for refunds or rebates to consumers if a project goes bad? With every passing year, as the VC Summer project grows more expensive, these questions become more urgent. Consumers should not be forced to continue paying their hard-earned money with no end in sight.
A significant number of our members – around 300,000 – are past the age of 66, and many are living on Social Security as their primary or only source of income. The average monthly Social Security benefit is $1,250. Monthly expenditures for these folks – and for many of us – have to be monitored with an eye on, “what can I do without,” in order to make ends meet. Utilities, generally, are non-negotiable. For some, needed medications, food choices – some pretty essential commodities - get reduced or axed.
SCE&G should stop its nickel and dime approach to rate increases. The current process does not promote transparency nor does it appear to provide adequate protections for consumers.
AARP urges the ORS to remember the best interests of everyday South Carolinians, maintain close oversight of this project, and address our areas of concern in a timely manner.