NEWBERRY — Ever since Dominion Energy made a deal to purchase SCANA, rumors have been flying about what the deal will entail. To help clear up some of those rumors, Dan Weekley, with Dominion, and Rep. Rick Martin discussed the acquisition and answered concerns of Newberry County residents.
“There are rumors flying around, untruths flying around everywhere. Over the last few weeks I have received a couple of hundred calls. I get questions from you, and I spoke with multiple people from Dominion, it is my job to ask,” said Martin. “This is about your future, and our future, our kids and grand-kids.”
According to Weekley, vice president of Government Affairs with Dominion, this is going to be one of the biggest issues the state of South Carolina has dealt with in decades — and that is why it is important they answer any and all questions.
Prior to Dominion making the deal, Weekley said many people never heard of Dominion.
“We actually trace our roots back to George Washington, he did survey work for us. We have facilities in 18 states, we got into the electric business from transportation. We built a trolley company in Richmond, Virginia and built the first power station to power those trolleys,” he said.
Many people may not realize, but Dominion already has operations in S.C. In fact, they are currently in 32 of the 46 counties.
“This is the pipeline network we purchased from SCANA about four years ago,” he said.
The company’s S.C. headquarters is in Columbia and Dominion has invested about $750 million dollars in the state to date. They also have the largest solar facility in the state, with more than 1,000 acres in Jasper County.
Weekley himself came to Dominion via a merger. He started with the company in 1999 when Dominion, which was known as Virginia Power at the time, purchased Consolidated Natural Gas, a large natural gas company.
“SCANA employees, I’m sure you are exactly where I was at that time, asking what does this mean for me, and what does this mean for my future,” he said.
Weekley said Dominion has been very big in S.C. for a number of years, but they believe the issue with SCANA is holding the state back.
“What happened over in Jenkinsville was a tragedy, it is unbelievable that project collapsed the way it did. More than 5,000 people who worked over there, the majority were let go,” he said. “This issue has got to get resolved.”
For years, Weekley said one of the positives for the state were low energy rates, a tool to bring business in. However, now energy rates are higher than any state around S.C.
“Dominion approached SCANA about a year ago, SCANA indicated they wanted to stay on their own. We contacted them again, they said they don’t see a path forward where they remain on their own, and they didn’t have the financial ability to stay on their own,” he said.
SCANA was in fact contacted by four other companies: Two didn’t make offers, one only wanted the assets in North Carolina, and Dominion — who wanted everything.
Weekley said when the deal gets done, they probably won’t know if it is a good deal for them for about six to eight years, it is all based on the economic staying strong in South Carolina.
When it comes to the refunds Dominion is offering, the total will be 1.3 billion dollars, equally divided between residential customers and industrial and commercial. However, not everyone is gong to get a thousand dollars, that is an average.
“If your bill averages 150-160 dollars over the course of a year, you are getting a thousand dollars within 90 days of the closing of the deal. The check will come directly to you, you don’t have to fill out any paperwork,” he said. “If you pay an average of 300 dollars a month, you are going to get two thousand dollars. There is no cap on it, no minimum on it.”
If your electric bill averages 75 dollars a month, your refund would be 500 dollars. The number is based on usage.
“We calculated that based on the 2016 total usage, information we had at the time, we didn’t have the 2017 data at the time,” Weekley said.
Ultimately, the State of South Carolina will decide how Dominion calculates the refunds, and pick the year they decide to calculate.
One question for Weekley was what if you moved since the year it is calculated from. Weekley said the calculations will be based on where you lived during the year the state picks, and moving to another part of the state will not negate customers getting a refund, as long as they were a customer during that year.
Everyone will also get a seven percent rate reduction on their total bill, right away. However, half of that is based on the federal tax change from last year, and every cent from the corporate tax change will be passed to the customer.
“As it stand right now, you will be paying for Units two and three for the next 60 years, but what we’ve done, we have shrunk that payment period down to 20 years,” he said.