Lawmakers set to decide Santee Cooper’s future in 2021

Officials at Santee Cooper have been able to move forward with some of the things in their reform plan with some restrictions.
Updated: Sep. 30, 2020 at 7:17 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Before the COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers were considering three bids for Santee Cooper.

They received a bid from NextEra to purchase the state-owned utility, another bid from Dominion to manage it, and a plan from Santee Cooper to reform itself.

Any decision on these bids were put on hold because of the pandemic.

Officials at Santee Cooper have been able to move forward with some of the things in their reform plan with some restrictions.

Officials said they are on pace to meet some of the goals laid out in their plan. Mollie Gore is the Director of Corporate Communications She said, “We’re moving forward on key initiatives in terms of power supply transformation, debt strategies and in terms of other customer benefits.”

One of those goals includes paying off $3.6 billion in debt from the failed nuclear project at VC Summer. They hope to have that paid off in 12 years.

Senator John Scott (D-Richland) believes the state-owned utility could help play a big role in rural broadband expansion as well. Lawmakers passed a bill this month that would allow telecommunication companies to use powerlines to get their services out to unserved areas.

He said, “Santee Cooper plays too many major roles. Things have changed. When you look at South Carolina and the amount of unemployed people - now is not the time to sell the utility. Especially if we want to keep the costs of services as low as they can.”

House leadership have expressed interest in selling Santee Cooper in the past. The House Ways and Means Committee was set to consider a proposal that would reform the state-owned utility and then sell it.

The South Carolina Small Business Chamber said selling Santee Cooper to get rid of the debt would be a good move. President and CEO Frank Knapp said, “Why should the ratepayers pay billions of debt for a nuclear project that is never going to be built?”

Santee Cooper officials said they will continue to work on making improvements going into 2021. Gore said, “The progress Santee Cooper is making increases our value. Whatever the outcome, it will be good. Its demonstrating benefits to customers.”

Due to a recent $520 million settlement in a ratepayer lawsuit, Santee Cooper is freezing their energy rates for most of their customers for the next four years.

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