Santee Cooper’s massive debt level continues to be problematic, and large. The company has one way to bring-in money – its customers. Customers deserve a clear explanation of the debt owed. That clear explanation isn’t happening. Here are examples.
Recently Santee Cooper told a media outlet it has $12.5 billion in debt, which includes interest.
Santee Cooper itself said on January 11, 2021: “Santee Cooper’s debt is NOT $13.001 billion. The outstanding debt on Santee Cooper’s balance sheet as of 12/31/2020 (i.e. after the recent refinancing/financing) was $6.8 billion…”
The bond rating organization, Fitch, a big deal in the finance world, said on August 13 that Santee Cooper had “roughly $7.2 billion [in debt] at year-end 2020.”
Lots of different numbers. The amount of money that Santee Cooper has as debt and also what it will eventually have to pay (counted as interest, not debt) needs clarity so the public – and their elected representatives who have pledged oversight of the state-owned utility — knows the score.
If a person buys a $200,000 house and finances it over 30 years at 3%, that person pays $200,000 for the house and $103,555 in interest. The $200,000 house effectively costs $303,555. (Unless pre-payments are made, which may be part of the Santee Cooper process.)
Come on, Santee Cooper. Just say it. Clearly. Do more than high gloss “Financial Health” pages on your website. You know what people have a right to know.
The new Santee Cooper chair has an opportunity to show he is committed to transparency versus continuing Santee Cooper’s style of management by smokescreen.
The newly appointed guardians of Santee Cooper could demand clarity on behalf of their constituents who foot the bill, and on whose behalf accepted greater oversight of the utility.
Policymakers who placed their faith in Santee Cooper reform – who did not support customers with a sale and debt defeasance – deserve an unquestionable, comprehensive explanation. A public one. An open session with stakeholders would be illuminating, too. (Investor-owned utilities do that quarterly.)
When the legislature shot down a sale they promised that things would be different. The legislature claimed the authority and ability was in place to make things different.
The only thing clear from these latest financial numbers from Santee Cooper is that “reform” is not off to a great start.