Setting the Record Straight
Dear SC Club for Growth,
Your “open letter to Santee Cooper customers” is exactly why we reached out directly to our customers: you are promoting information that is misleading at best and at points, flat wrong. Let’s be clear:
- A typical Santee Cooper residential customer receives the lowest average monthly bill among customers of all major electric utilities in South Carolina. Our rates are competitive and will continue to be so, even as we add in costs for the nuclear debt.
- The current debt is $7.2 billion, not $8 billion. We have paid down $800 million in debt in less than two years.
- We are managing costs by cutting our own budgets and taking other actions to avoid the need for a rate increase – that is hardly keeping rates “artificially” low on purpose. But yes, we are holding the line on rates – “on purpose”.
- We will need to increase rates incrementally beginning in 2021, over a period of a few years and totaling an average 7 percent in additional rates, to cover the rest of the nuclear debt. Every other major electric utility in South Carolina is already seeking double-digit rate increases this year or has announced plans to for a rate increase of some amount by 2021.
- The failure of Westinghouse (the contractor designing and building the nuclear project) to deliver on its contract is what caused us to stop the project. Continuing to build it would have required a 41 percent increase in customer rates. Your letter completely omits any reference to Westinghouse’s role in this situation.
- The offers you claim are pending before the legislature are not offers – they are nonbinding expressions of interest. Those proposals have few details, and legislators have expressed much frustration over how little information is available on those proposals.
- The proposals that claim the largest “rate reductions” seem to be based on generation changes that would also be expensive and time-consuming – if they could be done at all. Converting our coal stations to natural gas, for instance, would require completing a natural gas pipeline through Virginia and North Carolina that is currently held up in litigation and billions of dollars over budget – and then adding to it to get it through South Carolina to one of our stations.
- Santee Cooper was the first utility to offer renewable energy to customers, back in 2001, and the first utility to put solar on the grid, in 2006. We have 106 MWs online, including solar, landfill gas and wood-waste biomass, and continue to look for options that are practical for customers. We also rebate solar panel installations for residential and commercial customers.
- Santee Cooper’s economic development record is unparalleled in South Carolina. Since 1988, our efforts have helped secure more than $15 billion in capital investment and 80,000 jobs across the state.
Santee Cooper is a complex utility involved in electricity, water, economic development and more. The legislature is rightly considering several options for our future, with their expressed interest in choosing the best path forward for customers. We believe that customers - and all stakeholders, because Santee Cooper has impact statewide - should know the facts. It is critical that we set the record straight.