Just last month, the state Department of Administration announced that it would now be accepting bids to buy or manage some or all of Santee Cooper.
Once the bids are received, the four consulting firms chosen by the state administration will review and pass on their recommendation to the General Assembly. From there, the assembly will make a decision on the future of the state-owned utility.
As this process continues, Santee Cooper’s direct serve and cooperative customers will continue to pay for the utility’s massive debt stemming from the failed V.C. summer project. In the meantime, Grand Strand residents are continuing to express their hope for legislators to sell Santee Cooper, get the state out of the utility business, and get rid of the debt.
Johnnie Bellamy, a Myrtle Beach resident, wrote to The State expressing his thoughts on the issue stating, “Investor-owned utilities have offered to buy Santee Cooper and provide lower long-term rates. Selling Santee Cooper just makes good sense to protect customers from sky-high electric bills.”
However, Santee Cooper has publically advertised to its customers that they have some of the lowest rates in the state, which Bellamy argues, “The electric cooperatives have complained that Santee Cooper has the highest wholesale rates not only in the state but in the region, ranging from 25% to nearly 50% higher than investor-owned utilities.”
Validating his concerns, another South Carolina resident of Murrells Inlet, Dick Richards, wrote to the South Strand News saying, “If a qualified buyer can pay off the debt and offer low rates, it just makes good sense that our legislators vote to sell Santee Cooper to protect ratepayers and get the state out of its failed utility business.”
It is clear residents up and down the Grand Strand would like to see the state move forward with selling Santee Cooper.
Meanwhile, the electric cooperatives that purchase their power from Santee Cooper are in a battle against Santee Cooper to stop them from charging their customers any more for the V.C. Summer debt.
However, while this may help the cooperative customers, there are many questions left to answer if the cooperatives win their lawsuit against the state-owned utility. Will Santee Cooper, a state agency, have to file for bankruptcy?
Or will all the debt be left in the hands of the direct serve customers if the utility isn’t sold?