LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Why won't we learn?
- December 11, 2018
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On Nov. 24, the Morning News published a guest column S.C. Sen. Tom Davis titled "Energy competition is answer to high rates." I disagree with almost everything that Davis wrote.
In my letter of August 29, 2017, I asked whose side our PSC is on. It allowed the acquisition of Progress Energy by Duke Power and then immediately granted Duke three rate hikes that took my rate from 9.98 to 11.637 cents per Kw-Hr. During the 15 years I worked for Wisconsin Electric Power, the company had three stock splits and two rate decreases. This will never happen in S.C.
There is nothing wrong with the regulated monopoly system. The PSC and the legislature are the problems in S.C. In other states, the PSC must approve capital-intensive projects before the cost is passed on to the ratepayers; and before this approval is given, the necessity of the project and possible alternatives are evaluated. Even in Mississippi the PSC curtailed the coal gasification phase of the Kemper County project.
Why won't our officials learn from the disaster that occurred in California when it tried to use competition to lower rates? Power producers sold their power to the highest bidder, and rolling brownouts occurred throughout the state except in cities such as Sacramento and L.A. that owned their own facilities. The only way that there can be competition is if there is excess generating capacity; and even the interveners have given up on that argument. Excess capacity does not exist during peak periods. Even if excess capacity did exist, utilities can manipulate supply, and therefore prices, just as OPEC and the oil companies do.
I would like Davis to explain how he is going to get some buyer to absorb $15 billion of Santee Cooper's debt so that the ratepayers get off the hook. This is the whole net worth of some utilities. This is more "pass the buck" talk.
Earlier this year, Davis introduced bill S.890, purportedly to lower our electric rates by forcing utilities to buy power from independent power producers. I have a copy of this bill. Consumer welfare is not mentioned anywhere in it. The entire bill is geared to prevent utilities from using avoided cost methodologies that are favorable to themselves. This bill puts all the decision-making into the hands of the PSC, the very organization that has granted Duke unprecedented rate hikes. I wrote letters to Sens. Davis and Hugh K. Leatherman Sr. (a co-sponsor) in March 2018, asking them to reconsider this bill, but received no replies.
The Base Load Review Act (Bill 431) that started this whole debacle was supposed to protect ratepayers. I quote, "An act to protect South Carolina ratepayers by enhancing the certainty of investments in the infrastructure of electric utilities serving consumers in this state and the recovery of fuel costs." The law was poorly written unless it was intended to be another back room deal; and our PSC failed to do its job.
Artificially created competition is not the answer. The answer is for our PSC and legislature to quit the back room deals and start doing their jobs. We don't need to pay our government if it is not going to work for us.
LAWRENCE D. WEBER