Business group calls for Santee Cooper sale

Business group calls for Santee Cooper sale

Lexington County Chronicle
February 28, 2019

By Jerry Bellune

Private owners of debt-ridden Santee Cooper can bring lower rates and clean electricity.

That’s the belief of the SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce in backing the sale of taxpayer-owned Santee Cooper and its assets.

$8 billion in costs of the utility’s failed nuclear project must not be passed onto small businesses, said Frank Knapp Jr., CEO of the business group.

Santee Cooper is a major power supplier to Lexington County members of Mid-Carolina Electric Co-op.

He said the sale should meet 2 conditions:

• Eliminate ratepayer responsibility for $8 billion in nuclear and other debt.

• Replace the coal plants with renewable and less carbon-polluting generation.

Since 2002, the chamber has tried to keep rates low primarily in Santee Cooper’s nuclear partner SC Electric & Gas’s monopoly territory.

In hearings on SCE&G’s nuclear construction-cost recovery, he backed an Office of Regulatory Staff bid for a 22% rate cut rejected by the PSC in favor of Dominion Energy’s 15% rate proposal.

Knapp said selling Santee Cooper will allow a financially-stable owner to close dirty, expensive coal plants and replace them with new solar and gas plants.

Santee Cooper has no regulatory oversight which has resulted in poor management, Knapp said.

It partnered with SCE&G to build the now abandoned nuclear plant and took on a $4 billion debt if paid off today and $9 billion if paid off over 30 years, he said.

Its board let CEO Lonnie Carter retire with $800,000 plus annual benefits. He said the chamber does not currently support offers to buy Santee Cooper but reserves the right to in the future.

The chamber is a statewide advocacy group of over 10,000 small businesses.