Nov. 29, 2005 - Columbia, SC - SCE&G today announced plans to provide up to $3 million to assist financially challenged natural gas customers with energy bills starting Jan. 1 through a partnership with the Governor's Office, Office of Economic Opportunity, and local community action agencies.
"The Public Service Commission challenged us to evaluate ways we could help our customers in relation to the unusually high gas prices we're all experiencing. We are all concerned about the difficult time many customers will have with their energy bills this winter," said SCE&G President Neville Lorick. "With use of these dollars, we're focusing on those who are most in need. These funds should help some of our most vulnerable customers stay warm this winter."
SCE&G designated that the funds be used specifically for its residential natural gas customers who meet poverty guidelines. Priority will be given to those who are disabled/handicapped or elderly, and to families with young children (ages 5 and under), or households whose energy bills are more than 20 percent of household income.
SCE&G will ask the PSC to consider a request to allocate tax credits toward the Winter Assistance Fund and hopes to get approval at the Commission's regularly scheduled Dec. 6 meeting. If the PSC approves SCE&G's request, community action agencies could begin taking applications for funding Dec. 12.
"We're heartened to see SCE&G looking at unique ways that they can help their customers during difficult economic times," said Dukes Scott, executive director of the Office of Regulatory Staff. "Although rising energy prices affect us all, these funds will help ensure that many of their customers who need help the most will get it."
The higher costs facing natural gas users throughout the United States are being driven primarily by the damage done to production facilities in the Gulf of Mexico by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. SCE&G passes along the cost of natural gas to customers without markup and is not allowed a profit on this cost. Customers could see up to a 45 percent increase on their natural gas bills this winter (based on 100 therms usage). SCE&G already had taken steps to help soften the impact of higher costs on customers. Earlier this month, the company agreed to delay charging customers for $14 million it has already paid for natural gas in the past 12 months, plus an additional $7 million in future undercollections.
Some specifics regarding the $3 million in assistance announced today:
- The funding mechanism must first be approved by the PSC.
- If approved, Community Action Agencies could begin accepting applications for the funds Dec. 12; funds will be credited to approved customers beginning Jan. 1.
- Only SCE&G natural gas customers are eligible for the funds.
- Customers who anticipate problems paying their energy bills and meet the government poverty guidelines should call their local community action agency on or after Dec. 12 to set up an appointment.
- Customers must present their most recent SCE&G bill at the time of application. Qualified customers whose applications are approved will receive a one-time credit of $250 to their heating bill after Jan. 1.
- Eligibility criteria is based on federal economic guidelines. Households that have a combined income of 175 percent of the poverty level or below qualify (see chart).
Size of family unit
175 Percent of Poverty
*For family units with more than 8 members, add $4,890 for each additional member.
*List of community action agencies is attached.
SCE&G is a regulated public utility engaged in the generation, transmission, distribution and sale of electricity to approximately 581,000 customers in 24 counties in the central, southern and southwestern portions of South Carolina. The company also provides natural gas service to approximately 282,000 customers in 34 counties in the state.
SCANA Corporation, a Fortune 500 company headquartered in Columbia, SC, 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 approximately 581,000 electric customers in South Carolina and more than one million natural gas customers in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia. Information about SCANA and its businesses is available on the Company's website at www.scana.com.