The Gullah Geechee Chamber of Commerce and its founder, Marilyn Hemingway are calling on legislators to approve the sale of state-owned Santee Cooper to NextEra Energy. The organization, which promotes entrepreneurship and green energy in the coastal African American community, has been critical of Santee Cooper’s economic, environmental, and diversity record.
Earlier this week, Hemingway, joined by James Felder of the Gullah Geechee Leadership Institute at a news conference, announced their endorsement of a sale, saying “It’s time for South Carolina to move past the malfeasance and devastatingly bad decisions of the past and move boldly into a green, renewable energy future. NextEra Energy is the stakeholder we need in South Carolina.”
NextEra Energy has submitted a proposal to lawmakers to purchase debt-riddled Santee Cooper, which included paying-off the nuclear debt owed by the state-owned utility so that it wouldn’t fall to the direct serve and electric cooperate customers.
At the conference, Hemingway and Felder outlined reasons for supporting a sale to NextEra, including:
- Clean, affordable energy, with rates 30% lower than the industry average
- Award-winning diversity and inclusion programs
- Investments in minority-owned businesses
- A pledge to work with rural communities to understand immediate broadband needs
“NextEra is not just talking the talk,” Hemingway said. “We have seen the future of energy in South Carolina – and it is NextEra Energy.”
Santee Cooper continues to push a “reform plan” which many have expressed disappointment in, especially the plan’s failure to address key issues such as how it plans to pay off the billions of dollars they owe without raising rates, what happens to rates after the “rate-freeze”, and what happens to the money customers have already paid for through increased utility rates over the years for the failed V.C. Summer project they’ll never benefit from.
With the 2020 legislative session being shortened due to COVID, lawmakers are expected to decide the fate of the utility in 2021. Until then, Santee Cooper’s direct serve and electrical cooperative customers are expected to wait to learn whether things will continue as they always have been with Santee Cooper or if lawmakers will decide to sell to NextEra.