COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina House Utility Ratepayer Protection Committee was established in August in response to the abandonment of the VC Summer nuclear facility in Jenkinsville. The committee has been tasked with comprehensively studying the issue and quickly determining a viable plan that best serves the interests of South Carolina ratepayers.
On Tuesday, Conservation Voters of South Carolina (CVSC) Executive Director John Tynan testified before the committee on behalf on the South Carolina Conservation Coalition. Below find his complete remarks as prepared for delivery:
“I am here today not just representing CVSC, but speaking on behalf of the Conservation Coalition, a group of 45 organizations representing over 50,000 citizens across South Carolina. Many of our organizations and members are ratepayers of utilities affected by the VC Summer project.
“Much of the conversation and testimony today and over last few meetings has been looking at the past. We agree that understanding what has led us to this point is critical to ensuring this never happens again and charting the path forward for our state. We commend you for your diligence and thoroughness in these investigations and look forward to seeing what you continue to learn and uncover.
“That said, I want to use our time today to look forward — to talk about the future. Where do we go from here?
“The abandonment of the VC Summer nuclear project begins a new era in South Carolina energy policy. Our state – you all – face a choice: do we double down on the failed energy policies of the last two decades that led us to this point, or do we learn from our situation, adapt proven energy solutions for South Carolina, and chart a path towards a clean and accountable energy future for our state?
“The South Carolina Conservation Coalition believes that the time is right to implement pragmatic efforts to reshape the energy landscape in South Carolina for the better.
“South Carolina must develop a roadmap to our new energy future. We must seize this catastrophe as an opportunity, adapt proven concepts to the South Carolina ‘way of doing things’ and create clean energy jobs, protect ratepayers, and clean up the VC Summer mess.
“Here’s what needs to happen…
“First, we must create clean energy jobs.
“Thousands of South Carolina workers are now unemployed because of a policy that guaranteed that ratepayers would invest in a huge, risky project, even if it became economically uncompetitive and unneeded.
“Rather than rebuilding an energy framework where thousands of jobs are tied to the success or failure of a single energy-related project, South Carolina should invest in smarter energy efficiency and clean energy jobs that are integrated throughout the state’s economy. These types of jobs have been proven to work in numerous states, and can be scaled up or redirected with market developments over time.
“South Carolina has a unique opportunity to harness the growing national energy efficiency and clean energy markets, creating thousands of jobs that will endure as the clean energy economy expands.
“Second, we must protect ratepayers.
“No amount of structural or regulatory reform will result in lower bills for ratepayers already burdened with the cost of the failed nuclear plant. The only way to deliver needed short-term relief to ratepayers is with new efficiency and renewable policies.
“For the last ten years, the promise of abundant nuclear energy to meet our future needs diverted South Carolina from fully developing the energy efficiency and renewable policies to give customers control of their bills and to give the state as a whole an economic advantage.
“Energy efficiency and clean energy investments are the best way to insulate ratepayers from increasing energy costs. We should be working to advance our state’s diversity of energy sources as a hedge against price volatility as we seek to meet new generation needs.
“South Carolina must act now to make up for lost ground, give consumers the ability to take control of their energy bills, remove market barriers to efficiency and renewables, and give certainty to customers who wish to invest in these areas.
“Third, we need to clean up the mess.
“The failure of the VC Summer nuclear project demonstrates that the current regulatory system in South Carolina for energy policy is broken and that the Base Load Review Act (BLRA) is fatally flawed. The BLRA incentivized large capital investments with a guaranteed rate of return and removed any consequence of failure or mismanagement.
“South Carolina’s current system for energy planning and decision-making lacks transparency and accountability for energy policies gone awry and poor decisions. Just as importantly, it has failed to implement proactive policies to steer clear of future VC Summer situations. The state should reform its energy oversight functions to provide transparency, accountability, and clear delineation of non-conflicting roles and responsibilities of each entity.”