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Bottom-Lining South Carolina’s Energy Future

“We need more generation …”

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Whether you agree or disagree with what they are saying, it’s nice to have people willing to bottom line things for you. Too often these days we get talked in circles – and the more important the issue, it seems, the more circular the conversation.

Such directionless discourse has become a sad staple of our political debate in the Palmetto State, where slick alliterations, clever acronyms and institutional imprimaturs conceal all manner of malevolent public policy – invariably at the taxpayer’s expense.

And at the expense of positive outcomes for the citizens of this state …

Seriously, every time I hear the word “synergy” from the South Carolina ruling class I check my bank balance – because somebody with a lot more money than me is endeavoring to drain it under the guise of some left-of-center, crony capitalist word salad.

To his credit, Keller Kissam of Dominion Energy doesn’t speak “word salad.” As attendees at governor Henry McMaster‘s energy summit learned last week, the Palmetto State president of this Virginia-based investor-owned utility speaks strictly in “meat and potatoes.” Direct. Digestible. And while you may not always like what you hear, there is no confusion as to his meaning. No “circularity.”

Kissam bottom-lined South Carolina’s energy situation last Friday at McMaster’s event.

“We need more generation,” Kissam bluntly told attendees at the gathering, providing some rare pointedness in an assembly otherwise governed by platitudinal pablum. “We about ran out of juice on Christmas Eve.”

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Actually, some utilities operating in the Palmetto State did run out of juice back in December due to poor resource planning (both in the short- and long-term). Meanwhile other utilities – including South Carolina’s state-owned Santee Cooper – continue relying on taxpayer-funded bailouts to keep their power flowing.

Kissam noted the addition of several large-scale industrial projects to the mix will compound the problem moving forward.

“You can’t plug all this new economic development into an overloaded extension cord,” he said.

The surge in demand comes against a troubling national backdrop. Thanks to climate “science,” the federal government is forcing investor-owned utilities, RTOs and other power providers to dramatically scale back conventional generation in favor of power from renewables – even though it is painfully clear these new energy sources are not bridging the gap in capacity fast enough.

The solution on the far left?

Rising demand for electricity will only compound this problem, creating a pernicious “resource adequacy” situation. According to a recent report from regional transmission organization PJM, “the amount of generation retirements (in its network) appears to be more certain than the timely arrival of replacement generation resources.”

In other words, power is being taken off of its grid faster than it is being added. Does South Carolina really want to plug its grid into something that’s losing juice?

In other networks – like the one run by Charlotte, N.C.-based Duke Energy – conventional assets are being deliberately mismanaged in an attempt to reach arbitrary carbon neutrality goals. Even worse? The costs of this mismanagement are being passed on to ratepayers – whether their interests were represented in that decision-making process or not.

Eco-radicals are basically attempting to pull a Bridge on the River Kwai-style explosion scene when it comes to existing power sources – before they’ve erected replacement spans to handle the traffic.

And for what? Reducing carbon emissions that are already steadily declining?

“I’m not saying zero carbon isn’t a good goal – it is,” I wrote last month. “I’m just saying it’s a terrible goal if the power runs out before you get there.”

(Click to View)

System control at Dominion Energy’s Cayce, S.C. headquarters. (Dominion Energy)

According to Kissam, the best pathway forward is to put “more renewables on your system paired with national gas.”

Currently, Dominion has more than 1,000 megawatts of solar generation capacity – with plans to add another 400-500 megawatts in the coming three to four years. That’s roughly twenty percent of its total generation capacity – an impressive commitment. Solar is a huge asset to power providers like Dominion – or at least it is when the sun is shining.

When it’s not? That’s the rub … and that’s why this news outlet has consistently championed the use of natural gas, which has been the real hero in reducing carbon emissions in the United States in recent years. Unfortunately, eco-radicals keep blocking pipelines – making it harder to connect these power sources to the grid.

On the pipeline front, Kissam praised U.S. congressman Jeff Duncan for his work in helping secure fast-track congressional approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline – a key regional natural gas artery. Supporters insist this 303-mile artery is necessary to “effectively transition to a lower-carbon future.” The pipeline will pump natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale fields to the southeast. It’s approval is a huge deal – especially after eco-radicals successfully blocked the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline back in 2020.

Erecting new natural gas infrastructure will be critical, according to Kissam, although that will require a shift in the current regulatory climate.

“They can’t overcome the continual lawsuits,” Kissam said, referring to pipeline supporters – even those attempting to build on their own right-of-ways.

As we have for years, count on this news outlet to keep its audience in the loop as it relates to regional energy matters. And count on us to continue advocating on behalf of taxpayers, ratepayers and a responsible energy mix that keeps the lights on (and motors purring) without needless price increases and unnecessary brownouts.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Will Folks (Brett Flashnick)

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.

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1 comment

RC June 12, 2023 at 4:27 pm

Everyone who doesn’t agree with me is a radical

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