In 2016 the STOP THE BLANK CHECK Coalition advocated for amending the Base Load Review Act so that for future power plant projects the public is better protected by requiring that additional construction financing costs beyond initial project estimates will be paid by utility shareholders until plants are finished, utility contracts will be transparent to the public, the PSC will be empowered to adjust Return on Equity and place the burden on the utility to show that business decisions made during the course of the project are “prudent”.
- Utility Accountability – Allow the use of the BLRA to recover construction financing costs only on the original PSC approved budget for construction. Any construction financing costs for additional construction expenses will be recovered in a general rate proceeding after the plant is used and useful (i.e. online producing energy for consumers). This will focus the utility on making the most prudent cost projections and construction decisions because the company will have its own finances on the line or cost overruns and delays.
- Utility Transparency – The SC Office of Regulatory Staff shall be an advisory-only party to all contractual negotiations and contract decisions for construction projects being submitted to the PSC for approval. Such an advisory-only role by the Office of Regulatory Staff does not constitute its approval of any eventual contracts nor is it to be construed that any subsequent contracts are prudent. The SCE&G experience has shown that ultimately the ratepayer will be the victim of imprudent contracts between the utility and vendors.
- Utility Profit Regulation – Allow the PSC to decide the utility’s Return on Equity under the BLRA. This re-empowering of the PSC is essential to truly protect the consumers from a state-approved utility monopoly.
- Utility Responsibility – The utility shall demonstrate to the PSC the prudence of transaction costs, or decision by a preponderance of the evidence. Currently the burden to show that a construction decision is prudent is on a challenging party, not the utility.
House Bill 4022, introduced by Representative Kirkman Finlay in the spring of 2017, addressed three of the four Coalition amendments. Only the amendment regarding transparency and the Office of Regulatory Staff was not contained in the original version of the bill.
The Coalition will release new recommendations on September 8, 2017.