SCE&G Agrees Bill-adjusting Program Should End

By SEANNA ADCOX

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) a¿¿ Energy provider SCE&G agrees with a state agency that its complicated bill-adjusting program should end.

The Electric Weather Normalization Adjustment was designed in 2010 to protect customers against spikes in their bills during extreme weather. But the agency that represents the public in utility issues said last month it's so complex, only SCE&G can determine if customers are being correctly charged.

While it's a good idea in theory, it's worrisome that only the utility can make and verify the calculations, said Dukes Scott, executive director of the Office of Regulatory Staff.

In a joint petition filed last Wednesday, SCE&G agreed with his office's recommendation. But the Public Service Commission has the final say. Its board is expected to meet on the issue in coming weeks.

The petition asks the regulatory agency to order the adjustments to stop with bills issued from December meter readings. Others to sign off on the agreement include AARP, which intervened as the utility sought another proposed rate increase.

AARP members protested the complex billing at public hearings, "and they were right," said Teresa Arnold, AARP state director.

"They really came to our way of thinking on it," she said Tuesday about SCE&G. "I was pleasantly surprised and grateful for our members because they complained so much about it."

In the petition, SCE&G seeks permission to spend up to $300,000 to promote its budget billing program, which averages customers' usage costs over a year. The three-stage campaign would extend into mid-2014.

About 14 percent of customers already use budget billing, said utility spokesman Eric Boomhower. Arnold called it a better, budget-friendly payment option than the constantly fluctuating rates that made bills nearly impossible to understand.

Under the adjustment program, approved in 2010 following an unusually cold winter, electricity rates are lowered during months when temperatures are hotter or colder than usual and raised during milder-than-normal temperatures.

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