Lexington County Chronicle
March 7, 2019
By Frank Knapp Jr.
Ratepayers who get power from our state’s 20 co-ops including Mid-Carolina and Tri-County Electric and directly from Santee Cooper are in debt more than $8 billion. Half of that comes from Santee Cooper’s 45% ownership of the abandoned nuclear project. The debate in the state legislature is about how to protect ratepayers from re-paying all this bonded debt and seeing their rates go up to do it.
The SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce sides with Gov. Henry McMaster to advocate the sale of Santee Cooper and all its assets to save ratepayers money. Several well-financed utilities want to buy Santee Cooper and say they can eliminate the $8 billion plus debt without raising rates and reducing future rates.
Some people 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%.
The Office of Regulatory Staff believes all the debt could have been absorbed by Dominion Energy, but the Public Service Commission unfortunately didn’t agree.
If another utility claims it can deliver the benefits we want for co-op and Santee Cooper customers and are willing to sign a contract with the state 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.
Mr. Knapp is the president/CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce