From Scott Carlberg

“You can’t appreciate what you haven’t seen.” I used to say that with my corporate employees as we discussed new ideas and our customers.

Santee Cooper customers are in this situation. Santee Cooper says, “trust us…we got this.”  That is despite the utility’s track record of failure. Then fails to deliver, again.

NextEra simply delivers.  Let’s see results – when NextEra purchased a utility in Florida. Here’s a glimpse of what can happen in South Carolina, not because NextEra says it; but because they have done it.

Gulf Power started in 1926 as an operating company part of The Southern Company. Half a million customers in 71 towns in Northwest Florida get their power service from Gulf Power.

Story about coal plant closure. Gulf Power.

Gulf Power became part of NextEra in January 2019 when purchased from Southern. Customers felt the positive effects quickly. In the first six months after the change:

  • Capital investment essentially tripled – from $262 million to $750 million. That means updated hardware and a better overall system.
  • Solar power integration planning started immediately.
  • Modern grid technology deployment quadrupled.
  • Gulf’s industrial customers integrated with FPL’s (Florida Power and Light). Going from 251 to over 13,000 customers means rate stability and larger fuel savings.

Gulf Power overview of the solar  Cotton Creek Energy Center

In the first year after the change:

  • Rates were lowered from shared fuel savings from Gulf Power and NextEra Energy.
  • Drones do safer transmission line inspection. That started in January of 2020.
  • Two Gulf solar projects, each 74.5 MW, were completed, doubling Gulf’s solar capacity in just one year.

Since then:

  • Operation and management costs drop 24 percent.

  • Hundreds of MWs of renewables and storage came to the Gulf electricity grid and customers. How? The Florida Department of Environmental Protection approved the North Florida Resiliency Line, a transmission project that will enhance the reliability and resiliency of electric service in good weather and bad for customers.
  • During Corona Virus in May Gulf residential and business rates were slashed 40-55 percent.
  • Gulf released a power tracker for customers, showing prior-day energy usage. This helps customers understand time-of-use rates and how to save money.
  • NextEra improved Gulf’s safety record, with no 2020 OSHA violations. NextEra brought these long-term safety practices to Gulf.

Coming up:

  • FPL and Gulf will have a combined rate structure by 2022, slated to lower Gulf residential rates 9% by year-end 2022.
  • The largest solar-storage project into the world will integrate into Gulf’s grid by year-end 2022. (Repeat, the world’s largest solar-storage project – big innovation, big achievement, big customer benefit.)
  • Emissions for Gulf will be cut 40% by year-end 2021.
  • Gulf Power will cut service response times 20% by year-end 2022.

Real numbers. Open communications. Positive working relationships with regulators. Real civic engagement.

Note that the improvements were done is less time than people in South Carolina have discussed the possibility of making a change at Santee Cooper.

Do the Gulf Power activities sound good, like progress, like benefits to customers? Santee Cooper customers have the chance to experience the same kind of progress, except personalized to their system needs.

  ***

Feature image is the Sauffley Solar Field from Gulf Power