The head of Duke Energy has been meeting regularly with a South Carolina state senator who is leading the push on reforming the Palmetto State’s energy marketplace. As of this writing, however, Lynn Good does not appear to have brought Wes Climer around to her way of thinking.
Climer, 39, of Rock Hill, S.C. was the lead proponent of the so-called “RTO study committee” bill which cleared the S.C. General Assembly in September 2020.
This law (Act 187 of 2020) created a panel to “recommend the adoption of various electricity market reform measures affecting the provision of electric service in South Carolina” and to explore the “potential public benefits associated with these measures.”
As its informal name suggests, chief among the “reform measures” the panel is slated to consider is a regional transmission organization (RTO). These entities sprang up across the country in the aftermath of the partial deregulation of the utility industry by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in the mid-1990s.
RTOs now provide power to two-thirds of the nation’s population.
“I met with her before, during and after the process of writing the (RTO study committee) bill” Climer told me on Tuesday, adding “I haven’t changed my mind.”
Climer added that he also met with Good prior to the publication of a guest column on this issue last fall. In that article, he called on the S.C. General Assembly to make South Carolina a “national leader” in what he described as “ratepayer-focused reform.”
“Everything should be on the table,” Climer wrote. “The deficiencies of our monopoly model are obvious, but all of the alternatives have certain drawbacks as well. The question is which model offers the best risk/ return ratio for South Carolina, according to the state’s geography, economy, population, and so on and so forth? And what lessons can we draw from our own experience, in addition to those of 49 other states?”
What sort of dialogue have Climer and Good had about this “ratepayer-focused reform?”
“We continue to disagree about the potential consumer benefits of competition in the utility arena,” Climer said.
Climer told me he has an open door policy when it comes to energy industry officials seeking an audience with him.
“I’ll meet with anybody and listen to them but ultimately public policy needs to be made on the basis of facts – and I am going to follow the facts where they lead me,” Climer said.
In addition to taking meetings, Climer does not discriminate when it comes to sharing his views with different groups. For example, he has been a panelist for E4 Carolinas – an energy industry trade association – as well as a panelist for groups like Conservatives for Clean Energy, which are supportive of the RTO model.
Certainly it makes sense for Duke to try and get on Climer’s good side …
The Charlotte, N.C.-based utility is in a difficult position in South Carolina following its recent efforts to put Palmetto State ratepayers on the hook for a massive infrastructure expansion in the Tar Heel State. Specifically, Duke wants South Carolinians to pay for up to a third of the costs associated with a massive buildout of natural gas infrastructure in North Carolina – an expansion necessitated by the utility’s ongoing failure to responsibly manage its energy mix.
Duke’s planned gas buildout would leave ratepayers with more than $5 billion in “stranded assets,” according to recent reports. Meanwhile, its attempt to shift the onus for these stranded assets to South Carolina could wind up costing Palmetto State ratepayers up to $3.5 billion.
Also, Duke would subordinate the much-maligned South Carolina Public Service Commission (SCPSC) to the whims of the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC).
Why would South Carolina go along with any of this? Because Duke has been able to rely on the support of supplicant South Carolina politicians for years, that’s why … including bought and paid for politicians.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
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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, he has LOTS of hats (including that Washington Senators’ lid pictured above).
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