Santee Cooper’s business forecast relies heavily on natural gas as a fuel for power generation. That may be less a forecast and more a pipe dream.

According to the plan: “Roughly 50% would be owned or purchased natural gas generation, constituting a much greener portfolio than the current coal-dominant mix.” (the plan)

A couple of potential hitches to the gas plan:

First: A pipeline. The business forecast proposes importing natural gas into South Carolina via the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which may have big challenges. Currently the ACP is to terminate in North Carolina.  But check some headlines:

  • West Virginia News – Atlantic Coast Pipeline remains halted as developers wait on court decisions.
  • S&P Global – North Carolina regulators again protest gas pipeline project…
  • WUNC Radio – Appeals Court Strikes Down Key Atlantic Coast Pipeline Permit.
  • Energy News Network – “…North Carolina environmental advocates are attempting a novel legal maneuver to stop the gas project from ever coming to the Tar Heel State.” Just recently – September 16: “A federal appeals court is pondering whether it should delay its case on the Atlantic Coast pipeline following a separate ruling that could come before the Supreme Court.”

If the pipe gets built as far as South Carolina, will it guarantee supply? Could other states regulate and rule on the pipeline at any time? Could other states impact the Carolinas’ energy?

The pipeline timetable and route are in question. It is planned for North Carolina. Will it get to South Carolina? Is this too speculative for 50% of a future fuel supply.

Second, will the appeal of gas fade?  Natural gas improves the carbon footprint of power generation if it replaces coal, but not if it is used instead of zero-carbon sources (e.g., nuclear, wind, hydro, solar). Power generation sources need context to be properly evaluated.

Again, Santee Cooper’s business forecast says, “Roughly 50% would be owned or purchased natural gas generation…” Could that be, in energy parlance, a “crowded market”?

Natural gas. Yes, greener than today. As green as it could be? Or, as cost-efficient as other sources of power in a portfolio? As dependable?