From Scott Carlberg

About a million dollars a day is being added to Santee Cooper’s debt for the unfinished nuclear facility in South Carolina as well as its utility operations. Money owed by the customers of Santee Cooper. That money goes to pay the costs already incurred for construction, materials and financing.

The debt is like big potholes in the road. People have to bump along and slow down instead of moving ahead.

A million a day is a big number. Every day. Going up as it adds up, too. Just trying to understand a number that large is rough. So here’s a top ten list to get a sense of – What is a million dollars? Just some ideas and numbers. (These are for illustration, not to infer that any of the debt financing can be used for these purposes.) 

  1. Potholes: The second week of January the State of South Carolina announced a “Pothole Blitz” to especially address what the hurricanes have done in the last year. SC DOT Tweeted that more than 5,000 potholes were reported by the public in a week, and more than 80% got fixed. Super! Potholes cause several hundred dollars of damage “per pothole incident.” Not all potholes are the same. Different sources have said fixing a pothole can be anywhere from $100 to hundreds each. Let’s just say $300 each for the sake of getting a feel for this. At a million dollars, at $300 per pothole, that is more than 3,300 potholes fixed.
  2. Teacher bonuses. Took this one from a recent news report. “Leaders of the Fairfield County School District agreed Tuesday to give all full-time employees a bonus in December, if they stick around or come work for the district in August.” A million dollars covers 200 bonuses.
  3. Water quality. A million dollars more than covers the total annual request in the 2019 budget for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources for statewide water monitoring and evaluation. (Source. See page 25)
  4. Military education. It covers half South Carolina’s annual executive budget request for the National Guard Tuition Repayment Program. (Source)
  5. Efficient HVAC: It could be the cost of 200 high efficiency heating and air conditioning units installed in homes that need it. The SEER – Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio – is a measure of energy efficiency. Here’s a look. South Carolina was ranked as having some of the least energy efficient homes in the nation, so improved HVAC would be useful.
  6. Electric vehicles: It could buy 27 new Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles (No air emissions from an electric vehicle. No tailpipe.) They run about $36,600 according to Chevy. The Bolt gets 119 mpg-e (miles per gallon equivalent). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determines an amount of electric energy equal to the energy of one gallon of gasoline.
  7. Energy saving: It could add useful insulation to save energy in 660 existing homes at an average of $1,500 per home, which can save money by saving energy. Depends on the house, of course. If you want to save energy this way, take a look here.
  8. School lunch: It is the cost of 285,714 premium school lunches in the Charleston County School District. ($3.50 per lunch)
  9. Fire safety: It covers about one-sixth of the annual fire department budget for Florence, SC. (See page 22)
  10. Tech ed: It covers 5,464 credit hours at the Technical College of the Low Country, which has associate programs in careers such as engineering tech, data, industrial electronics, programming and avionics. It is a school with a 95 percent placement rate. Grads go to work!

A million a day is added to Santee Cooper debt. Just from interest. The debt will be addressed by ongoing payments from customers, or it can be, in some fashion, addressed as a part of a sale of Santee Cooper. With proposals now being evaluated for the purchase of Santee Cooper, how it is addressed is yet to be seen. ECC believes it is important to understand the dimension of the debt in everyday terms.