When if Comes to Santee Cooper, Legislators Should Keep their Eyes on the Ball

From Bea Wray

As an entrepreneur and mother, “follow through” and “focus” are two of life’s most important lessons which I acquired from playing tournament, high school, and college tennis. As I prepare for this season’s final tennis match tonight, I remind myself how important it is to keep my eye on the ball. And then I wonder about South Carolina legislators, citizens, the Public Service Commission, SCANA and Santee Cooper executives, media, and energy consumers. Are they keeping their eye on the ball when it comes to caring for the V.C. Summer debt?

Recent attention has been given to deregulation of power, potentially draining lakes, and renewable energy. Each of these may be worth understanding in great detail and exploration is required. However, I begin to wonder if at this time, are they not distractions from the ball in front of us which is more than $8 billion of debt? Let’s focus on the financial fiasco from the failed V.C. Summer plant and let’s protect those South Carolinians least capable of paying for that debt who are currently at risk for being stuck with the lion’s share.

Let’s focus on the financial fiasco from the failed V.C. Summer plant and let’s protect those South Carolinians least capable of paying for that debt who are currently at risk for being stuck with the lion’s share.

As decisions are being made about pending and potential acquisitions for SCANA and Santee Cooper, let us understand what is being promised regarding rates, increases, etc. Energy Consumers of the Carolinas has written (and will continue to write) about the debt. One summary is here.  So continue to tune in please.

The shiny objects in the distance are also worth note. South Carolina State Senator from Beaufort, Tom Davis, has recently introduced a proposal to drastically change the energy landscape in South Carolina. He seeks to break up our existing regulated utilities in an attempt give citizens lower rates and some choice. As other states and utility customers have found, deregulation is not an easy answer and many have actually seen their rates to up. In what ways will introducing the conversation now help versus distract the conversation about protecting citizens from decades of debt payments?

Secondly, the future of Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion are stirring conversation as the future of Santee Cooper remains undecided. Lake Marion is South Carolina’s largest lake covering over 110,000 acres. Just this month, over 90 million people will drive over Lake Marion as they travel on I-95 north or south during the holiday season. How many will think about the complex dike and dam hydraulic power system maintained by Santee Cooper. Today, the lakes value to the community, tourism, etc. far exceeds the value of the electricity produced.

Lastly, renewable energy sources like solar and wind are always interesting to explore. In what ways are the tax incentives making them more possible? What are the startup costs versus return on investment? What promise do they hold for our future?

As a tennis player, it is handy for me to understand the full landscape of my environment, my opponent, the score, etc. But when the full picture is more than I can fully process, I bear down and focus on one thing: the ball in front of me one shot at a time. Today the ball in front of South Carolina is DEBT.  Let’s find the best solution to manage it.