Mark Bonsall, the new CEO of Santee Cooper, has a new strategy planned to stave off the sale of Santee Cooper. These plans include adding a large amount of solar energy, a new gas-fired power plant, and studying a cost-sharing arrangement with Southern Company (an investor-owned utility). However, this has SC legislators upset. The plan to work out an arrangement with Southern Company’s subsidiaries to jointly manage their fuel supplies, purchasing, energy trading, and coal ash waste – is the issue!
The Department of Administration – agency responsible for handling the Santee Cooper bids – and Senator Hugh Leatherman – considered the most powerful legislator in the state – argue that such an agreement would “disrupt, bias or circumvent” the state lawmakers’ plans. The Legislature has already stated their intent to vote early next year on whether to sell Santee Cooper, hire another company to manage it, or keep the utility under state control.
“We cannot and will not permit any additional efforts by Santee Cooper to advantage itself at the cost of process integrity,” said Marci Adams, the Department of Administration’s director.
Southern Company pointed out that they did not plan to take part in the bidding process and that Santee Cooper, was only doing what the Legislature had asked the utility to do – plot a possible path forward and to find cost-saving measures for its customers.
According to Santee Cooper’s chairman, Dan Ray, “These efforts are all designed to make Santee Cooper going forward, whether the General Assembly determines to sell Santee Cooper or allows its ongoing existence, the highest possible value for South Carolina”.
CEO Mark Bonsall said, he is focused on all the other ways that Santee Cooper can reform the business, which manages electricity to roughly 183,000 ratepayers and supplies power to the state’s 20 electric cooperatives. Such as, the recently announced phase-out of the coal-fired Winyah generating station (~180 employees) near Georgetown, plans to increase their solar capacity by 500% – adding more than 1,000 MW’s – and switching to a natural gas turbine to add another 100 MW’s. These kinds of changes will allow them to hold down costs for residential customers and the co-ops, Bonsall said.
The new leadership team at Santee Cooper expects to freeze rates over the next five years, while paying down chunks of the roughly $4 billion debt tied to the failed V.C. Summer nuclear project.