Frequently Asked Questions
What is the PSC?
The SC Public Service Commission is the state agency that regulates public utilities. Essentially, the PSC enforces the laws governing utilities and functions as a court for cases involving utilities, like Duke Energy and Dominion Energy, and other regulated companies. The PSC has jurisdiction over investor-owned electric and gas utility companies (and some aspects of Santee Cooper), water and wastewater companies, telecommunications companies, motor carriers of household goods, hazardous waste disposal, and taxicabs.
Why is the PSC important?
South Carolinians don’t have a say in where their power comes from or how much it costs - that’s because energy companies don’t have any competition in their approved "territories." To provide a check and balance on monopoly control over a territory, the PSC regulates utility rates, spending, and planning. These decisions directly impact every citizen of the state by determining things like:
Overseeing billions of dollars in spending that can fall to the ratepayer
Deciding how much utilities can charge for electricity
The location of utility infrastructure like power plants, pipelines, and power lines
What generation sources utilities use in South Carolina
Creating fair and viable programs for residential solar
Protecting consumers from unfair practices
How are these decisions made?
Utilities are required to provide plans and programs to the PSC for review, like rooftop solar programs, and the PSC must apply laws and regulations to these submissions. There are often statutes that require the PSC to consider specific topics at certain intervals, like determination of the avoided cost value for energy every two years. Issues are considered in “dockets” - these are like legal cases where parties are represented by attorneys and decisions are based on submitted evidence and testimony. Commissioners function like judges in the dockets - this ensures all communication between Commissioners and interested parties are public.
How do PSC elections work?
After applicants are screened, interviewed, and tested by the Public Utilities Review Committee, the entire General Assembly votes to elect Commissioners in each of the seven PSC seats, which are based on the state’s congressional districts. PSC terms are 4 years and are staggered so that 3-4 are elected every 2 years.
What makes a candidate “qualified” to be a Commissioner?
A commissioner must have at least a baccalaureate degree. The statute states a preference for a substantial background in energy, telecommunications, consumer protection and advocacy, water and wastewater, finance, economics, statistics, accounting, engineering, or law.
Candidates must exhibit good temperament and understand their role on the commission. They must be productive, proactive, and protective of the interests of all South Carolinians. The role also requires strong leadership skills, an ability to work toward common goals, and a positive influence on employees. Finally, candidates must be able to ensure that those appearing before the Commission are treated fairly and impartially.