Lexington County Chronicle
October 28, 2020
By Jerry Bellune
Should power company customers have the right to seek lower rates elsewhere?
That’s essentially the question Judge Roger Young had to answer in a case involving Santee Cooper rates.
Santee Cooper is the taxpayer-owned utility that provides power to Mid-Carolina Electric Coopertative in Lexington County and other state co-ops.
The decision could affect thousands of power company customers here.
The judge ruled against the City of Goose Creek in a dispute over whether Santee Cooper should continue being the sole power provider for Century Aluminum.
Goose Creek had set up a municipal electric utility to provide Century far cheaper rates to avoid the company closing its plant.
The court ruled Santee Cooper has exclusive right to Century Aluminum.
SC lawmakers established Santee Cooper’s exclusive right decades ago. Only a change in state law could allow competition.
As a result, Century Aluminum may close its plant, it told its 295 employees.
“This is another bad business decision by Santee Cooper,” said SC Small Business Chamber CEO Frank Knapp. “This was a last ditch effort to stop the plant from shutting down and losing 295 good-paying jobs.”
Said Tom Clements, an energy expert and Savannah River Watch director, “This underscores why it is essential for the political choke hold on Dominion, Duke and Santee Cooper customers to be broken and the free market allowed to function in electricity.
“Competition will lower costs and encourage development of small-scale solar power that is starting to boom in South Carolina but stymied by the large utilities and their legislative allies.”