COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – At the beginning of this year, South Carolina lawmakers were weighing their options when it came to the future of state owned utility company, Santee Cooper. The company is billions of dollars in debt after a nuclear plant failed to go online.
Lawmakers are now taking a break due to the coronavirus outbreak, but what does this mean for the future of the company.
South Carolina lawmakers were looking into different options for the future of Santee Cooper including selling the company or bringing in a different management team.
“There are three different options; sell Santee Cooper, not to sell it, or to do some type of hybrid of a public private partnership,” said Rep. Seth Rose.
At last check lawmakers were reviewing a proposal from a Florida based company to buy Santee Cooper, but the company wanted lawmakers to reform the legislation that put Santee Cooper in debt in the first place.
Lawmakers were supposed to use this year to evaluate that option and review current law, but COVID-19 forced those conversations to stop.
“Obviously the longer this lingers, the more the future of Santee Cooper is in doubt and there is a lot of money invested and tied up into but it’s decision that needs to be done right,” said Rep. Seth Rose.
Santee Cooper doesn’t just provide electricity to its customers it also supplies most of the power for many cooperatives in the state.
The uncertainty of what happens with Santee Cooper will directly effect coop customers. Relief for some cooperatives is in the works, but long term consequences are unclear.
Mike Couick, Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina, said “Your coops are Broad River, Blue Ridge and Laurens will all have a different approach of how they plan to implement the recent settlement between Santee Cooper and the customers, but what we anticipate is a 5-year rate freeze but coops are going to have to figure out how to work that into its budget.”
Lawmakers will be back here at the state house in September however, because of a sine die resolution passed in May lawmakers will only be able to handle matters related to the 2020 budget and the state’s COVID-19 response.
Lawmakers anticipate continuing these conversations in January, but it’s unclear if that offer to buy the company will still be on the table.
In that resolution, Santee Cooper is also prohibited from any business dealings that may have an impact on customers or the state’s ability to move forward with possible options for the company.