A Clean Energy Future for Santee Cooper
Santee Cooper’s future is in the spotlight in 2020 as our legislature decides whether the state-owned utility should be sold, privately managed, or reformed. Whatever the outcome, we have an opportunity to push our state-owned utility to a 100% clean energy future, lowering bills and pollution, and increasing South Carolina jobs. Sign our petition to voice support for clean energy and to stay updated on more ways to get involved!
Why is Santee Cooper in the spotlight?
Santee Cooper is a public utility, which means it is state-owned and answers to a board and the legislature – rather than the Public Service Commission (which regulates investor-owned utilities like Duke & Dominion). It was formed in the 1930s to supply power to rural areas, where for-profit utilities normally wouldn’t extend power because of the bottom line. Unfortunately, Santee Cooper still relies in part on dirty and expensive coal plants – like the Winyah Generating Station in Georgetown and Cross on Lake Moultrie to generate power.
After the failure of the VC Summer nuclear project left Santee Cooper with massive debt and no power plant to show for it, the General Assembly decided to solicit bids to explore a change in ownership or management of Santee Cooper. H.4287 charged the S.C. Department of Administration with analyzing options to buy, privately manage, or reform Santee Cooper and presenting the finalists to the legislature. In February, the DOA presented the final bids for the legislature to review (read more from the Post & Courier here).
In early March, both the House and Senate subcommittees rejected all of the proposals presented by the DOA. Following these actions, the House and Senate have continued to discuss both sale and reform options for Santee Cooper, with expressing support for some action in 2020.
What is the best path forward?
Whatever path is chosen, the Legislature should focus on reducing costs, minimizing risks, and protecting the health and environment of the five million South Carolinians who rely on Santee Cooper today. Committing to achieving 100% clean energy by 2050 is the best way for South Carolina to achieve these goals.
By investing in clean energy resources, South Carolinians will see lower bills, less water and air pollution, and more jobs. Santee Cooper’s aging coal-burning power plants cost ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars more than other options. In fact, it now costs less to build a new local solar farm than it does to run existing coal plants.
In addition, clean energy is low risk – it is serves as a hedge against rising gas prices, avoids putting ratepayers on the hook for huge utility-preferred billion-dollar gambles like VC Summer, and it can be deployed incrementally – avoiding multi-billion dollar power plants that “bet the farm” on a single project.
Finally, a recent report by a leading energy firm shows that the cheapest path forward for Santee Cooper is to transition to clean energy – saving ratepayers $360 million over business as usual. In addition, clean energy companies predict that growth of solar energy in the state could create as many as 25,000 jobs that can’t be exported.
What does committing to 100% clean energy look like?
- A firm commitment to 100% clean energy for Santee Cooper by 2050 is an important step forward in protecting our environment while continuing to meet the energy needs of Santee Cooper customers and communities today and well into the future. Retiring Santee Cooper’s two existing, aging coal plants within 10 Years and investing in renewable energy is cheaper, cleaner, and less risky.
- This commitment must be fair and equitable for all – any plan must ensure a just and fair transition for workers and communities impacted by economic transformation, with a goal of providing good-paying, quality jobs to South Carolinians. To advance environmental justice, Santee Cooper should focus on identifying and cutting disproportionately high levels of toxic pollution in economically disadvantaged communities and communities of color. All communities deserve to be pollution-free.
- Increased transparency and accountability – whatever path is chosen for Santee Cooper, we need more transparency for energy decisions to prevent future billion-dollar disasters like the V.C. Summer nuclear project. Transparent processes for decision-makers and the public need to be in place to ensure that customers’ best interests are put first.
With the help of conservation voters like you, we can secure a better, cleaner, and cheaper energy future for every South Carolinian.