Dominion Energy’s proposed rate hikes spark concerns about small business owners

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) — Dominion Energy is requesting new rate hikes for customers, and the company’s case is set to be heard by the South Carolina Public Service Commission next week.

Dominion’s proposal would raise the average residential customer’s rates by roughly 14%, which is about $19 more monthly. Commercial and industrial customer rates would increase by about 12% a month.

Since Dominion filed the request with the Public Service Commission, several parties that do not support the proposed rate hikes have intervened in the case, including the South Carolina Dept. of Consumers Affairs on behalf of residential customers.

Frank Knapp, the President of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, also intervened in the case to represent the interests of small business owners.

“We do it because utility costs are one of the largest expenses of a small business if they are responsible for paying their own utilities,” he said. “So we do this to try to keep the costs down for operating a small business so the small businesses have a better chance of being successful.”

Knapp also added that his goal is to ensure customers are not overpaying for utility services.

“We know we can get rate increases reduced by up to 50% or more by being at the table and working with the South Carolina Dept. of Office of Regulatory staff and other parties that are intervening like I am to fair out what is not necessary for the company to recover,” he explained. “They should only recover their expenses that actually accrue to the benefit of the customer.”

Dominion Energy told News 2 that the rate increases are necessary to help them with their service and operation costs moving forward. “As a responsible energy company with rates lower than the national average, we must invest money and recover the rising costs needed to keep our plants running, our system reliable and our grid secure – all while doing our part to help make South Carolina a place where people want to live and work,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

While there are no more public hearings on the matter, Knapp said concerned customers can still file a letter of protest with the Public Service Commission.

The Public Service Commission hearing is scheduled for Monday, however, a settlement could be agreed to before then. If that happens, the settlement would then need to be approved by the commission.