Public Power Utilities Provide Unique Value
Facts ARE Facts
It is understandable that after the suspension of the V.C. Summer project, some began advocating for a seemingly simple solution to challenges related to our role in the project: sell Santee Cooper to a shareholder-owned utility. In reality, privatizing a public utility is complex and requires extensive analysis, which is underway. Some communities across the country are going in the opposite direction: placing privately owned electric utilities under city or other public management. Efforts to municipalize electricity service are currently underway in Pueblo, Colo., and San Francisco, Calif., for example. These are important decisions, and so Santee Cooper customers and all South Carolinians should understand some basic FACTS about public power.
FACT: There is real value in being publicly owned. In a recent interview, American Public Power Association (APPA) CEO Sue Kelly said public power utilities work to respond to and reflect the values of their local communities. Santee Cooper’s commitment to economic development, management of two lakes and a myriad of wildlife habitats are just a few examples of community values we advance across this great state. You own Santee Cooper, and we understand what’s important to you because it’s also important to us. This is our home, too.
FACT: There is real value in being publicly managed. Santee Cooper is ultimately governed and regulated by a Board of Directors, which is appointed by the Governor, confirmed by the state Senate and has representation from across the state. The Board members are focused on what is best for customers and the state, not Wall Street shareholders. And Santee Cooper’s customers don’t pay a profit to shareholders, either.
FACT: There is real value in being able to offer low-cost power. Santee Cooper operates efficiently, and we are constantly looking for ways to decrease costs to our customers. It’s a priority for us and for public power in general. APPA says that the average residential customer of a public utility pays 11.8 cents per kilowatt-hour, versus 13.5 cents to a for-profit utility. The typical Santee Cooper residential customer has the lowest average bill among all large utilities serving South Carolina. And not only does Santee Cooper operate without any state tax dollars, it actually contributes close to $20 million a year to the state general fund.
FACT: There is real value in being customer-focused. Public power often serves areas that for-profit utilities won’t, especially areas that are more expensive to serve. And because we are not driven by a need for profits, public power utilities can focus on what is best for the communities we serve – things like system maintenance to keep the lights on for customers. Our average distribution customer was without service less than 21 minutes last year, compared to 96 minutes or longer for investor-owned utilities in the state.
FACT: There is real value in being a non-profit. Like other public power utilities, Santee Cooper can invest in reliability through grid maintenance, first-in-the-state renewable generating stations, unparalleled economic development, excellent customer service, and innovative energy efficiency programs to help customers save money and benefit the state. All of this, of course, feeds into customer satisfaction survey results that are consistently higher than those of for-profit utilities. And we have the financial strength to continue delivering on all these fronts and maintain rates that are lower than average.
Since our inception in 1934, Santee Cooper has been publicly owned and has improved the quality of life and prosperity for our customers and all South Carolinians. Period.
And that’s a fact.