Santee Cooper Issues 2020 Progress Update
MONCKS CORNER, S.C. – Santee Cooper has made significant progress in our efforts to boost accountability, pay down debt, return money to customers and deliver leaner, greener energy. Those efforts are detailed in our 2020 Progress Report Card and Progress Update Powerpoint, released today and available at www.santeecooper.com/progress.
Santee Cooper also launched a series of informational papers today that will, over the next several weeks, provide important facts about financial and operational strength. You can find the first installment, responsive to a legislative request to correct certain information being reported by others, here.
“As a state-owned power and water utility, Santee Cooper is pleased to share with its customers and all South Carolinians detailed information about our ongoing transformation to a leaner, greener utility and our successes related to debt paydown and other matters,” said Mark Bonsall, President and CEO. “We have made huge progress, and we are continuing to move forward on other initiatives that will further benefit our customers and the state.”
As the Progress documents show, Santee Cooper has:
- Frozen rates for 4+ years. While other utility customers could see their rates increase by as much as 7% this year, we have frozen rates through at least 2024. Santee Cooper customers already have the lowest average residential utility bill from large utilities in the state.
- Saved $347 million through debt refinancing (2019-2020). Santee Cooper refinanced nearly $570 million of our debt in 2020 alone (and reduced that debt by 8 years) to take advantage of historically low interest rates without increasing overall debt. We have refinanced a total $730 million in debt over the two-year period.
- Paid off over $600 million net debt (2019-2020), and in 2020 set $85 million aside to pay down a unique 2023 “balloon” debt obligation.
- Improved our credit rating. Both Fitch and Moody’s revised their credit outlook for Santee Cooper from negative to stable, citing the settlement of legal liabilities and our recent debt refinancing deal as key contributors to their decision.
- Greatly reduced legal liabilities including Cook case. Santee Cooper has resolved all outstanding nuclear plant-era lawsuits including a landmark $520 million settlement – of which Santee Cooper will pay $200 million – in the Cook case to deliver refunds to customers. These settlements put customers and taxpayers first.
- Secured $160 million in projected annual average fuel and operating savings, a 13% reduction. Thanks to a new long-term and common-sense approach to resource planning, we have delivered real savings to customers by locking in today’s low energy prices through renegotiated contracts.
- Created a more efficient, accountable, and diverse Santee Cooper. Over the past few years, we disbanded Santee Cooper’s executive incentive pay plans, reduced our executive staff by nearly 20%, and lowered our overall headcount by 10% across the company. In 2020, we established Santee Cooper’s first Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Awareness Council (the IDEA Council) and increased diversity at our highest executive levels from 3% in 2015 to 22% in 2020.
- Advanced our vision for leaner, greener energy. We idled coal-fired Winyah Generating Station Unit 4 and are continuing plans to close two units in 2023 and the remaining units by 2027. We also worked with Central to solicit bids for the construction of 500 MWs of solar generation from private solar companies and have begun executing contracts for that power.
- Supported economic development, COVID relief. We provided customers flexibility and relief throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and helped secure the creation of 1,300 South Carolina jobs and $609 million in new capital investment in 2020.
- Enabling expanded broadband access. We have inventoried available capacity and will be using our over 5,000 miles of transmission lines to help enable the expansion of broadband to increase opportunities for economic development, education, telemedicine, and jobs in unserved and underserved areas of South Carolina.
- Tied our best year ever for safety. 2020 tied Santee Cooper’s best year ever for safety with more than 1 million incident-free manhours. This achievement is a testament to Santee Cooper’s hard work and the dedication of our employees who embody our culture of safety and customer service.
- Increased customer satisfaction. Santee Cooper continues to receive outstanding customer satisfaction ratings. Our 2020 retail ratings were an improvement from 2019, with industrial, commercial, and residential customers giving us satisfaction ratings of 100%, 96%, and 95%, respectively, in our annual customer survey.