Featured Image: Charleston City Paper
It’s been two years since Santee Cooper pulled the plug on the V.C. Summer project after racking up over $4 billion in debt on the failed project.
Since then, lawmakers have debated what the future holds for Santee Cooper. After months of debate, they passed a resolution in May allowing South Carolina’s Department of Administration to begin the bidding process by choosing a third-party to review offers. However, this isn’t the first time an outside firm was brought in to review bids. Earlier this year, Virginia-based consulting firm ICF was tasked with taking bids that were expressions of interest for the debt-ridden Santee Cooper.
On Tuesday, July 30, Governor McMaster’s administration selected three new consulting firms to advise lawmakers on the sale of and bids received for Santee Cooper. This selection of firms comes less than a week after Santee Cooper finally agreed to pay $15 million for the consultants. The three consulting firms hired will be responsible for advising lawmakers on the bids received for the purchase and management offers for the state-owned utility. Santee Cooper is also expected to submit a plan for reform to be considered by the advisors. The Department of Administration is expected to present state lawmakers with top offers as early as Jan. 15.
One particular South Carolina business owner, Craig Ascue, wrote an editorial published in the Times and Democrat, urging for the sale. As a second-generation business owner, he understands the large impact electric rates can have on not only residents in the area, but the well-being of businesses as well.
“As a business owner, I know full well the impact lower rates will have on small business customers. Lower rates mean more raises and health benefits for employees,” Ascue wrote. Under the current structure, Santee Cooper direct serve and co-op customers will be on the hook for the $7.2 billion of debt the agency is currently in.
Ascue wrote to Times and Democrat saying, “Santee Cooper needs to be sold to an experienced and qualified electric utility company. Only then will its customers be free of the debt the utility’s leaders have put upon them, and only then rates will truly go down and innovation be able to thrive.”
The people of South Carolina, including the small business community, are ready for a change to be made to the current status quo.