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Santee Cooper Debt – Clean the Slate

From Scott Carlberg

“A clean slate.” The term is often used at the start of a new year. It means to start fresh, to be rid of debt. Or, to get people on an even footing. That may not be the exact phrase used about Santee Cooper’s nuclear debt and how it can impact customers, though it is likely the thought in many folks’ minds – how to handle the debt, or, have a clean slate. (Source) Entrepreneur magazine advised that one of the worst ways for a businessperson to start a new year is with the same problems as the year before, saying, “Assess what didn’t work last year — then tick them off your list.” (Source) A not-clean slate.

The State of South Carolina has opened up the possibility of selling Santee Cooper. When the tradition of state ownership of Santee Cooper is considered, there’s little doubt it is a tough decision. Sentiment can enjoy what has been done before.

Through the lens of business and customers, it is a different view. The debate about Santee Cooper goes outside state lines. Recently the bond rating for Santee Cooper was lowered. Bond Buyer magazine reported, “The governor has threatened to veto any attempt by the utility to raise rates, and has said that ratepayers shouldn’t have to pay for money spent on reactors that will never be used.” In this atmosphere there needs to be a change for the sake of consumers.

Transformation will continue to drive successful businesses in 2019. Change. Progress and decision-making are on-deck for business (again) in 2019. From a Forbes magazine look at the coming year: “Today’s businesses must be willing to shed their old skin to fully transform into a new business. This occurs when a company is willing to completely transcend into an entirely new business model. (Five Trends Shaping The Future Of Customer Experience In 2019)

It’s no mistake that customers are mentioned in the same breath as transformation. “Try to align with your customers’ goals and aspirations rather than your own,” said the CEO of a tech company in an Inc magazine news story called, Align with your customers’ goals. Be part of the goals that your customers are chasing. Customers do not strive for debt.

The customers of Santee Cooper are much like consumers across the Carolinas. They want great electric service at a good price and technologies that make life easier. That is a customer-centric perspective. A fair request and expectation.

The debate about the nuclear debt probably seems like it has been on-stage forever, but it really hasn’t in the overall scheme of things. Not compared to the history of electricity delivery in the Carolinas. That may be why some South Carolinans are not familiar with the issue. There has been no disruption of electric service, nothing that changes regular life overall from an operations standpoint.

Outside of operations, though, Santee Cooper debt can affect customers. Families. Small businesses. Debt can affect the State of South Carolina citizens.

Energy Consumers of the Carolinas has said, about the nuclear issue and debt, “The considerable debate so far has aired many viewpoints. As noted, leadership has its demands, and there are decisions about …

  • The role of state government in the ownership of an electric utility versus the regulation of a utility
  • Managing financial obligations resulting from the Summer nuclear project
  • How the voice of consumers is heard
  • Whether policymakers stay focused

How does a utility burdened with debt transform?  Answer: It can’t if it is too busy keeping its head above water. Cleaning the slate (sell Santee Cooper) looks like the consumers’ best interest.

Achieving a clean slate does much more than affect the ownership of a state-owned electric organization. It affects the customers whose power and finances depend on it. It’s time for a complete business transformation — as clean of a slate as possible.

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Further reading from ECC: (Click on the title)

Carolina Energy 2019: In South Carolina – Time to Implement Decisions

Santee Cooper Financial Rating is Lowered.