Florence News Journal
March 13, 2019
South Carolinians who get their electricity from one of our state’s 20 co-ops (including Pee Dee and Santee Electric) and directly from Santee Cooper are in debt to the tune of over $8 billion. Half of that comes from Santee Cooper’s 45 percent ownership of the abandoned nuclear construction project in Fairfield County. The debate in the state legislature is about how to protect these ratepayers from re-paying all this bonded indebtedness and seeing their rates go up to do so.
The South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce sides with Governor Henry McMaster in advocating that only the sale of Santee Cooper and all its assets can get the job done. Several offers from well-financed utilities proposing to buy Santee Cooper have indicated that they can eliminate the $8 billion plus debt from the customers not only without raising rates but reducing future rates.
Some are skeptical about how this is possible. However, when the state approved Dominion Energy buying SCE&G, the deal eliminated about half of the $5 billion of nuclear debt from the SCE&G ratepayers and reduced rates by 15 percent. The Office of Regulatory Staff, I and other parties believed that all the debt could have essentially been absorbed by the private utility, but the Public Service Commission unfortunately didn’t agree.
If another utility claims they can deliver the benefits we want for the co-op and Santee Cooper customers and are willing to sign a contract with the state of South Carolina agreeing to do that, then we should sell our financially-stressed state-owned utility.
Santee Cooper and our co-op customers deserve an even better deal than SCE&G customers got. Let’s give it to them.
Frank Knapp Jr.
President and CEO South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce