Columbia, S.C., Oct. 1, 2004 - South Carolina Electric & Gas Company (SCE&G), principal subsidiary of SCANA Corporation (NYSE:SCG), has filed a request with the Public Service Commission of South Carolina (PSC) for an adjustment in the "cost of gas" component of its rates. If approved, natural gas rates would increase by approximately 2.5 percent.
For residential customers using 100 therms of natural gas during the winter, the bill would increase $2.70 from $118.41 to $121.11. The hearing before the commission is scheduled for Oct. 21.
"SCE&G's costs to purchase and transport natural gas is a direct pass through to the company's customers. As a regulated utility, SCE&G cannot and does not make a profit on this portion of its rates," said Marty Phalen, vice president of gas operations. "Approximately 70 percent of SCE&G's rates are determined by costs the company incurs to purchase gas on the wholesale market and to transport that gas into South Carolina."
As a regulated utility, SCE&G's natural gas purchasing practices are reviewed annually by the PSC. The company is allowed to fully recover - through the rates paid by its customers - the price the company pays for prudently incurred natural gas costs.
SCE&G is a local distribution company (LDC), which means the company does not drill for natural gas. Instead, SCE&G buys its natural gas supplies on the wholesale market from companies such as BP/Amoco, Chevron, Shell and Texaco. Therefore, when natural gas prices on the wholesale market fluctuate dramatically, SCE&G, like other LDC's throughout the country, is impacted.
Phalen said increased prices on the wholesale natural gas market are expected to have an impact on SCE&G's rates heading into the winter months.
"Several factors are currently driving wholesale costs upward," he said. "The recent path of Hurricane Ivan through the Gulf of Mexico affected overall production and transportation of gas, causing price volatility in the crude oil market. And, forecasts for a colder than normal winter throughout the country will impact supply and demand."
Weather is always a significant factor in determining energy costs, he added. An extremely cold winter can increase energy bills even when rates remain constant. Also, with increased usage, storage inventories become depleted, which results in increased prices at the wellhead and potentially higher rates for local distribution companies such as SCE&G.
SCE&G provides natural gas service to approximately 279,000 customers in 34 counties in South Carolina.
SCANA Corp., a Fortune 500 company headquartered in Columbia, S.C., is an energy-based holding company principally engaged, through subsidiaries, in electric and natural gas utility operations, telecommunications and other energy-related businesses. The company serves more than 577,000 electric customers in South Carolina and approximately one million natural gas customers in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia. Information about SCANA and its businesses is available on the Company's Web site at www.scana.com.
SAFE HARBOR STATEMENT
This press release includes forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. Those statements include statements regarding the intent, belief or current expectations of the Company and its management. Although SCANA Corporation believes that its expectations are based on reasonable assumptions, it can give no assurance that its goals will be achieved. Readers are cautioned that any such forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and involve a number of risks and uncertainties, and that actual results could differ materially from those indicated by such forward-looking statements. Important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated by such forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, the following: (1) that the information is of a preliminary nature and may be subject to further and/or continuing review and adjustment, (2) regulatory actions or changes in the utility and non-utility regulatory environment, (3) changes in the economy, especially in areas served by the Company's subsidiaries, (4) the impact of competition from other energy suppliers, including competition from alternate fuels in industrial interruptible markets, (5) growth opportunities for the Company's regulated and diversified subsidiaries, (6) the results of financing efforts, (7) changes in the Company's accounting policies, (8) weather conditions, especially in areas served by the Company's subsidiaries, (9) performance of and marketability of the Company's investments in telecommunications companies, (10) performance of the Company's pension plan assets, (11) inflation, (12) changes in environmental regulations, (13) volatility in commodity natural gas markets and (14) the other risks and uncertainties described from time to time in the Company's periodic reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Company disclaims any obligation to update any forward-looking statements.