Consumer choice needed for electrical power

Consumer choice needed for electrical power
January 31 16:15 2017 Print This Article

Century Aluminum in Goose Creek recently filed a federal anti-trust lawsuit against Santee Cooper Electric Cooperative for not being able to purchase 100% of its energy on the open market. While Century has a special deal allowing the company to buy 75% of its energy from other sources, most South Carolina residential, commercial and industrial customers have no consumer choices available.

All electrical power is delivered through a national power grid. There is no way to know which generating source produces the electricity customers use. Natural gas is shipped around the country by pipeline. No South Carolina utilities produce natural gas. Santee Cooper is a state-owned utility company whose rates are not regulated by the state Public Service Commission.

There are currently 29 states which allow some form of consumer choice for electricity or natural gas. Georgia allows high-usage commercial and industrial companies to choose their electrical provider and residential companies to choice their natural gas provider. Pennsylvania, which has a robust utility consumer choice program for electricity, has residential rates about one-third lower than South Carolina. The average South Carolina residential electric bill is 23% above the national average.  See the state consumer choice map here:

Century Aluminum has also been hurt by aluminum dumping by China and Canada, which has caused the price of aluminum to drop from over $3000 per metric ton (2200 lbs) in 2007 to below $1800 per metric ton today. Commodities dumping is something President Donald Trump has address in his trade policy. Century has cut its workforce from a peak of 600 down to around 300.

High electricity rates have a big impact on our standard of living and our cost of doing business. Opening up electric and natural gas utilities to competition will lower rates for residential, commercial and industrial customers.