It’s a tradition at the end of the year to look back, “best of” lists are all over. Books, albums, podcasts, restaurants… We are no different, so here are the blogs that had the most clicks for Energy Consumers of the Carolinas. Today, Santee Cooper is the topic. A sizeable topic! A common theme is risk.
A basic question we asked recently: Is Santee Cooper an asset? Really an asset, or a liability? We asked that even before recent news stories about significant retirement packages (no, not for previous executives).
An asset is something positive netted against liabilities. What is the balance – benefits versus liabilities? Do the positives outweigh the negatives of continued state ownership of Santee Cooper?
Then there is the pandemic. Coronavirus May Light Fuse on ‘Unexploded Bomb’ of Corporate Debt said the New York Times. Santee Cooper is loaded with debt in uncharted territory. That is why the State of South Carolina cannot afford the Santee Cooper money pit. Especially now.
The virus re-calibrates debt risk. Coronavirus Lesson: Balance Sheets Matter – Companies with plenty of cash and little debt will be just fine, said a business expert. This is a measure of fiscal health Santee Cooper cannot meet.
ECC reminded readers how electric rates are set. In the PSC and investor-owned utility process, the professional power experience at the PSCs and companies provide a useful expertise. Their interaction is a check-and-balance. The experience is across a wide geography and the exposure to energy issues can be broad and deep.
For Santee Cooper that is not the case. It just takes a vote of the Santee Cooper board to hike rates.
Over 2020 (and before) Santee Cooper lack of openness has gotten to the point that powerful leaders in South Carolina have hit a wall. Here’s Speaker of the House Jay Lucas in a letter to Santee Cooper after hearings in Columbia in the spring:
“Attempting to have an open, honest, and productive conversation with Santee Cooper has been exceedingly difficult and disappointing. It has become my experience and the experience of House leadership and staff that the representations made by Santee Cooper Board members, leadership and staff are not reliable. …Santee Cooper…has chosen to behave as a rogue entity, seeking to satisfy its own priorities rather than those of ratepayers, taxpayers and the State of South Carolina.”
ECC asked if Santee Cooper employees – the average Joe or Jane – get a fair shake from management. “Santee Cooper mismanagement affects planning, operations, finance, and employee development. If a company can’t manage core functions – adding generating capacity, for example – it likely can’t add capacity to the workforce for the future.”
Yet Santee Cooper has its apologists. Settle for whatever the company does. Why have the risk?
Why, when there is NextEra – the one named Utility of the Year and received S&P Global’s Energy Transition Award – ready to usher in higher quality, real respect for customers, and financial stability?