As the debate over South Carolina’s energy future ratchets up, negotiations over the potential sale of a dreadfully managed state-owned utility are being conducted in earnest – ostensibly under the auspices of S.C. governor Henry McMaster.
According to our sources, McMaster’s department of administration (SCDOA) oversaw a high-level gathering of energy executives on Friday afternoon at the Marriott Columbia hotel just off of Main Street in downtown Columbia, S.C.
Reportedly attending this confab were representatives of Juno Beach, Florida-based NextEra Energy, officials from government-run Santee Cooper and officials with the Central Electric Power Cooperative, Inc. (CEPCI), Santee Cooper’s largest customer.
NextEra is one of two companies rumored to have submitted a bid to purchase Santee Cooper, which lawmakers are considering unloading in the aftermath of its involvement in NukeGate – a spectacularly failed attempt to build a pair of next generation nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer nuclear generating station in Jenkinsville, S.C.
That project went tits up in August of 2017, leaving South Carolina ratepayers and taxpayers on the hook for nearly $10 billion – including more than $2 billion in private sector investment risk effectively socialized by Republican and Democratic politicians in the S.C. General Assembly.
Also reportedly attending the Marriott gathering? Mike Couick, president and chief executive officer of the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina (ECSC). Couick is a longtime ally of McMaster’s chief of staff Trey Walker, the latter of whom is described by many as the de facto governor of the Palmetto State.
What was discussed at the meeting? Good question …
(Click to view)
(Via: Santee Cooper)
According to our sources, NextEra has submitted the only “viable” bid to purchase Santee Cooper – which racked up billions of dollars in new debt thanks to its starring role in NukeGate.
Charlotte, North Carolina-based Duke Energy has also reportedly submitted a bid to purchase Santee Cooper, while Virginia-based Dominion Energy – which recently purchased crony capitalist utility SCANA – has reportedly submitted a proposal to manage the utility for the state in lieu of selling it outright.
Finally, Santee Cooper has submitted a plan to “reform itself” – although this news outlet has repeatedly poured cold water on such representations (including this piece just before Christmas).
For months, Santee Cooper has also been working furiously to undercut a possible sale – drawing a sharp rebuke from leaders in the S.C. General Assembly who have been eager to preserve their options. Many suspect Santee is working with the Atlanta, Georgia-based Southern Company in an effort to shut down a potential sale so that it can enter into a long-term deal to buy power generated by Southern’s new nuclear power plant – assuming that project is ever finished.
Santee was about to enter into a “memorandum of understanding” with Southern back in September, but lawmakers put the kibosh on those conversations.
McMaster’s administration is responsible for submitting two Santee Cooper-related proposals to the S.C. General Assembly – one involving the outright sale of the utility and another involving its management by a private sector provider (with the state retaining ownership).
Those two proposals are due to lawmakers no later than March 15, 2020 – along with Santee Cooper’s “reform” plan, which at this point is likely to be little more than a continuation of its smoke-and-mirrors machinations.
Lawmakers will be required to vote either “aye” or “nay” on these three proposals no later than April 15, 2020. They can only pick one plan … or they can do nothing and the status quo will hold.
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(VIA: GETTY IMAGES)