Residents of multiple rural South Carolina counties received some good news this week when leaders of the Pee Dee Electric Cooperative (PDEC) – part of an innovative rural power partnership – announced a ten percent reduction in power bills for the coming winter.
“This reduction will be applied automatically, and members will see it as a line item on their monthly bills,” a statement from the partnership noted.
The rate decrease will begin in December 2021 and run through February 2022.
“The winter months are a time when our members use the most energy and see their highest bills,” PDEC board of trustees chairman James Goodson said in a statement. “We are so pleased to be able to show our appreciation by offering this significant rate decrease for that period.”
News of the rate cut was first reported by The Dillon (S.C.) Herald.
A year ago, PDEC joined forces with neighboring Marlboro Electric Cooperative (MEC) – a trailblazing local cooperative that has long been one of the lowest-cost energy providers in the Palmetto State. In fact, MEC’s rates were the lowest in the state in 2019, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). The two utilities – operating under the banner “MPD” – have been slashing rates even further since joining forces, including a ten percent cut implemented earlier this year prior to the peak summer months.
When this partnership was first announced, I referred to MPD as a potential “game-changer” for local energy providers. Utility leaders have validated this assessment by continuing to put ratepayers first – and by “creating economic benefits, long-term efficiencies and overall improved service for members.”
“We’re so proud to have been able to provide our members with a five percent rate decrease last winter, as well as the much larger ten percent discount this past summer,” said William Fleming Jr., president and chief executive officer of MPD. “The ability to offer an additional 10 percent rate decrease during the coldest and highest use months of the year demonstrates the benefits of the strategic alliance between the two co-ops. The ability to effectively perform as one of the largest electric cooperatives within the State and country provides each co-op the opportunity to regularly decrease rates and continue to improve member reliability across the entire region.”
In addition to its collaboration with PDEC, three years ago MEC pulled out of the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina (ECSC) – a statewide trade group that has been embroiled in scandal. PDEC followed suit shortly thereafter. Last October, MEC made headlines once again when it filed a lawsuit against the Central Electric Power Cooperative – a glorified middleman whose local utility customers are forced to pay some of the highest energy prices in America.
That suit seeks a “fair and equitable exit” from the statewide cooperative – which purchases approximately 60 percent of the power generated by South Carolina’s scandal-scarred state-owned utility, Santee Cooper.
I have consistently supported the cooperatives in their efforts, believing that they should be free to purchase more of their power from whom they choose – which would enable them to reduce customers’ rates even further instead of relying on costlier, less-environmentally-friendly power orchestrated by “scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” Central Electric.
This organization is driven by individuals like general counsel John Tiencken – a former Santee Cooper chief executive officer. Also influencing its decisions is Mike Couick, who had a starring role in the now-notorious NukeGate fiasco – the botched construction of a pair of since-abandoned nuclear reactors in Jenkinsville, S.C. back in 2017.
The failure of this project set Palmetto State taxpayers and ratepayers back by more than $10 billion – yet Santee Cooper has somehow managed to avoid criminal consequences in connection with the ongoing investigation.
MPD serves nearly 40,000 residential customers in Chesterfield, Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Lee, Marion and Marlboro counties. I continue to applaud its leaders for their ongoing efforts to provide value to customers – and question why more regional energy cooperatives to follow their lead.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children. And yes, in addition to having lots of kids he has LOTS of hats (including that Chicago Blackhawks’ lid pictured above).
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