Sell Santee Cooper for Ratepayer Relief. Private sector will deliver lower rates and clean electricity generation.

Sell Santee Cooper for Ratepayer Relief. Private sector will deliver lower rates and clean electricity generation.

February 26, 2019

The South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce (SCSBCC) is supporting the sale of Santee Cooper and all its assets.

“It is important that the cost of the failed nuclear project in Fairfield County not be passed onto the small business ratepayers of Santee Cooper and local electric co-operatives,” said Frank Knapp Jr., president/CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce.  “We believe that this is best accomplished by selling Santee Cooper with two conditions:  elimination of ratepayer responsibility for the $4 billion nuclear construction debt plus over $4 billion of other bond debt and a fast timeline for replacing the utility’s coal plants with renewable and less carbon-polluting generation.”

Since 2002, the SCSBCC has focused efforts on keeping utility rates as low as possible primarily in the SCE&G territory.  Mr. Knapp has intervened pro se multiple times in the past 16 year in rate hearings before the Public Service Commission (PSC).  He was an intervenor in the recent PSC hearing on SCE&G’s nuclear construction-cost recovery docket in which he supported the Office of Regulatory Staff’s position of a 22 percent rate reduction that was rejected by the PSC in favor of Dominion Energy’s 15 percent rate reduction proposal.

The SCSBCC lists numerous reasons for its position:

  1. Following the SCE&G/Santee Cooper nuclear project debacle, the South Carolina legislature acted to reduce electric rates for SCE&G customers by 15%, which set the bar for the permanent 15% reduction ordered by the PSC.  Santee Cooper and the state’s electric co-op customers deserve the same action by the legislature to reduce current and anticipated rates.
  2. The S.C. House of Representatives, through the Speaker of the House, supported the sale of SCE&G to another private utility with more assets to stabilize SCE&G financially and remove half of the nuclear debt from ratepayers.  Santee Cooper and the state’s electric co-op customers deserve the same support of the legislature to sell Santee Cooper to another private utility to achieve financial stability and eliminate the nuclear debt from its ratepayers.
  3. Selling Santee Cooper to a private company can both reduce rates immediately and eliminate future anticipated rate hikes for the $4 billion in nuclear debt (growing by $1 million a day) and over $4 billion in other bond debt.
  4. The sale of Santee Cooper will allow the financially-stable, new owner to retire the utility’s dirty and expensive coal-fired plants and replace them with utility-grade solar and new generation gas plants.  Retiring the coal plants will not only allow for reduced rates, it would dramatically reduce the utility’s carbon pollution which contributes to climate change that is driving rising sea levels and flooding threatening our coastal communities.
  5. As a state agency, Santee Cooper has no regulatory oversight which has resulted in poor management decisions.
    1. Tried to build an unnecessary coal plant in the 2000s until public criticism succeeded in stopping the project.
    2. Entered into a partnership with SCE&G to build the now abandoned nuclear plants and incurring $4 billion of debt on construction costs if paid off today and $9 billion if paid off over 30 years.
    3. Allowing its CEO to retire with a $800 thousand-plus annual income package of benefits.
  6. State government should not be in the power-generation business.  Arguments to the contrary would support the proposition that power generation for all South Carolina consumers should be provided by a state-owned generation utility.

The SCSBCC is not supporting a particular offer to purchase Santee Cooper but reserves the right to do so at a future date.

“Selling Santee Cooper is not the goal,” said Mr. Knapp.  “Totally eliminating the $4 billion nuclear debt and over $4 billion of other bond debt on the utility’s ratepayers and transitioning the utility to renewable, less carbon-polluting generation is the goal that we believe can only be achieved by selling Santee Cooper.”

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Contact:  Frank Knapp Jr., President/CEO, South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, 803-252-5733 (o), 803-600-6874 (c), fknapp@scsbc.org.

The South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce is a statewide advocacy organization founded in 2000.  With over 10,000 small business and entrepreneur supporters, it has successfully worked to make South Carolina more small business friendly in areas such as healthcare, taxation, regulation, worker training, energy/conservation, workers’ compensation and economic development.