Jacksonville Electric Authority, a city-owned utility, was up for sale, then it wasn’t. And now more news: JEA downgraded because of governance instability, said Bond Buyer magazine. The article cites managerial risk, financial risk, and a lack of trust in this public power utility.
JEA is downgraded. Santee Cooper has had two downgrades. The “A rating” of Santee Cooper is well below the AAA rating the agency once had, no matter how it looks in carefully worded fact sheets. Historically Santee Cooper has received high rating because its Board of Directors has the ability to (and has) set rates without any public oversight.
The trend is concerning.
“Governance instability.” It is a problem that Santee Cooper has admitting having and the General Assembly has underscored.
Plans to change the instability could happen quickly or take decades, depending on the South Carolina Legislature.
Reforming Santee Cooper is a labor intensive effort. Building a plan by committee is not a plan for success. Reforming takes time and attention the State does not have handy. Reform is “risk on.”
Selling the utility brings in professionals in leading-edge utility management. Selling is “risk off.”
The message: There is a window for action. The window may close, and the opportunity lost to monetize a troubled asset that requires intense professional care for a very long time.