General Assembly Elects Four New Public Service Commissioners

Today, the General Assembly elected Carolee Williams, Mike Caston, Headon Thomas and Delton Powers, Jr. to the Public Service Commissioners. All four Commissioners are new. Randy Randall, the only incumbent running, withdrew before the vote. Read more in Andrew Brown’s article in the Post and Courier.

Supreme Court Decision is a Warning for PSC Intervenors

Yesterday, the South Carolina Supreme Court dismissed the appeal of a PSC decision on avoided cost rates based on mootness and standing. SCCCL v. Dominion Energy of South Carolina, Op. No. 27994, September 9, 2020. The Court’s ruling on standing should interest many parties who regularly intervene in PSC proceedings. Traditionally, the PSC has liberally granted petitions to intervene to parties who express an interest in its proceedings. However, intervention in a PSC proceeding does not automatically give one the right to appeal.

The Court found the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy lacked standing to appeal the PSC’s decision. The Court said neither SCCCL nor SACE were an aggrieved party or a party in interest with standing to appeal “because the rates set by the PSC affect only qualifying facilities. The rates do not affect the environmental or consumer interests represented by the two organizations.” The Court also rejected SCCCL and SACE’s argument that they had “associational standing” because there was no proof their members would “otherwise have standing to sue in their own right.”

The Court observed that the regulation allowing intervention at the PSC is less restrictive than the rules for appellate standing, and concluded The fact a party was allowed to intervene at the PSC does not equate to standing to appeal the PSC’s decision.”

AP 1000 Parts Sale – Everything Must Go!

The Lexington County Chronicle reports that Dominion Energy and Westinghouse have agreed to split the proceeds from the sale of leftover reactor parts for the unfinished VC Summer 2 and 3 reactors. So, if you happen to be working on an AP 1000, this could be your chance to pick up spare parts on the cheap. Westinghouse will be handling the sale. No word yet on its marketing plan. Westinghouse may want consider a tent sale with 20 rib-eyes for $40, they’ve been drawing good crowds this summer.

PSC Halts Rate Increase Under Bond

It has been conventional wisdom that a South Carolina utility has a statutory right to increase rates under bond while an appeal is pending. See S.C. Code Section 58-5-240(D). If the appeal is unsuccessful, the utility owes its customers a refund plus 12% interest. Yesterday, the Public Service Commission essentially said “not so fast”. At the urging of the Consumer Advocate, the Commission reconsidered a previous order allowing Blue Granite Water Company to raise rates under bond. Citing the Governor’s Order declaring a state of emergency due to the COVID19 pandemic and the current economic uncertainties faced by ratepayers, the Commission stayed the rate increase, instead allowing Blue Granite to track the lost revenues in a regulatory asset and ask for their recovery in a subsequent rate proceeding. The stay will remain in effect until December 31, 2020, when the Commission will revisit the issue. Read the Commission’s directive here.

New Report Touts Benefits of Southeastern RTO

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The Energy Innovation Policy and Technology LLC, consulting firm launched a fresh volley in the Southeast’s the simmering “RTO war”. EIPT released a report which argues an RTO could save consumers more than $340 billion over the next twenty years. According to S&P Global intelligence: “At the heart of the Aug. 25 analysis is extensive technical modeling by Vibrant Clean Energy showing that all seven southeastern states located outside of wholesale organized markets — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee — would benefit by sharing resources and expanding transmission to meet one regional planning reserve margin at the least cost.”

RTO Intrigue in the Carolinas

Proposed SEEMA territory

The Energy and Policy Institute reports that Google ads critical of RTOs have recently been running in the Carolinas. The ads were prompted by Google searches related to renewable energy. EPI, which describes itself as a “a watchdog organization that exposes attacks on renewable energy and counters misinformation by fossil fuel and utility interests” says similar ads were run last year by Energy Consumers of the Carolinas, but did not go so far as to attribute the current campaign to ECC. For its part, ECC says its mission is to “advocate for fair, clean and reliable electricity through constructive dialogue.” EPI speculates the current ad campaign is designed to thwart an RTO, and protect plans by some southeastern utilities to establish the Southeast Energy Exchange Market. While EPI describes ECC, a 501(c)(4) organization, as a dark money group, others have been similarly critical of EPI.

Vogtle Costs Piling Up, But Who Will Pay?

Five years behind schedule and eleven billion dollars over budget, the Southern Company’s Plant Vogtle nuclear project keeps chugging along. The first reactor is scheduled to go online next year, but COVID19 related delays may push back the schedule on the $25 billion project, resulting in more cost overruns. Interestingly, when the Georgia Public Service Commission voted to allow the project to continue, it deferred a determination on the prudency of the additional costs until completion. However, Clayton News Daily reports the Southern Environmental Law Center is urging the Commission to review the cost of the new reactors now, a move opposed by the utility. SELC argues some of the cost overruns are unreasonable and should not be passed on to customers.

Management Changes at Dominion Energy

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S&P Global Market Intelligence reports Thomas Farrell will step down as president and CEO of Dominion Energy Inc. on Oct. 1, to become the energy company’s Executive Chairman. Current Vice President and co-COO Robert Blue will take his place president and CEO. Diane Leopold, will be the company’s sole COO. No changes announced for South Carolina.

PURC Nominates Candidates for PSC Election

This morning, the Public Utilities Review Committee nominated the following candidates to be considered by the General Assembly for election to the Public Service Commission on September 23, 2020.

District 1:

  • Carolee Williams
  • John Dulude
  • William Sloger

District 3:

  • Mike Caston
  • Randy Randall (i)
  • Willie Morgan

District 5:

  • Headen Thomas

District 7:

  • Tee Miller
  • Clint Elliott
  • Delton Powers, Jr.

PURC will issue its report, and candidates can begin  campaigning  48 hours after the report has been provided to members of the General Assembly.