July 29, 2009

A successful day

This last Monday, the league and others met in Myrtle Beach with Santee Cooper's board of directors. To all of you who showed, thank you for doing so; we had so many people! Nearly 30. We made a very big step in our battle for a greener South Carolina. People stood up for their state's economic interests and heart's interests. The board is now reevaluating their plans for the rates, which directly pertains to the coal plant. This is something the league asked the board to do in the spring -- they had said no, that they would not reevaluate their rates or future plans. Thank you for all your help, it is deeply appreciated, to the league and our beautiful state.

The SunNews
Groups take on energy rate rise by Santee Cooper
Adva Saldinger
July 28, 2009

Santee Cooper's plans to raise rates this year and build a coal-fired plant in Florence County were under fire Monday by a group of customers and environmental activists.

About 35 people spoke to the packed conference room at the Sheraton Conference Center and Hotel in Myrtle Beach.

The meeting was the eighth and final meeting before board members of the company vote on a proposed 10 percent rate increase in August.

The increase would be implemented over two years with a 4.5 percent increase Nov. 1 and a 5.5 percent increase on Nov. 1, 2010.

Grace Gifford, who was representing the Five River Friends Quakers Meeting, said the rate increases will put additional stress on people who are already struggling.

"Our current Santee Cooper board should provide leader ship by addressing our desperate need for jobs,'' she said. "Energy efficiency measures and home-based renewables such as solar hot-water heaters can generate jobs, lower the peak and lower costs to low income families.''

Laura Varn, a spokeswoman for Santee Cooper, said that the company has not increased the base rate in 13 years and that the cost of business has increased. Projections show that at current rates, costs will exceed revenues for Santee Cooper by the end of this year.

"The timing is bad, and we'll readily admit that,'' Varn said, adding that the company held off on the increases as long as possible.

Other speakers expressed their opposition to Santee Cooper's planned coal-fired power plant.

Nancy Cave, the Northcoast director of the Coastal Conser vation League, called on Santee Cooper to invest in energy- efficiency programs and alternative energy.

"We don't feel the coal plant is the right solution for this state,'' Cave said.

She said a coalition of groups has protested against the coal- powered plant at every step along the way, but that this meeting provided a unique opportunity to talk to the Santee Cooper board.

"I think there is a misconception that this rate increase is related to the Pee Dee facility, and that is not true,'' Varn said.

The costs of producing power have increased, and the rate increase will only pay for "minimal costs associated with the facility,'' she said.

Cave said her organization is calling on the company to intro duce energy-efficiency programs that save 1 percent of total elec tricity sales annually. Combined with falling demand, those savings would mean the plant was not necessary, she said.

"Our expertise from indepen dent analysts indicate that with the load now, we need that facility, plus energy efficiency, plus renew ables,'' Varn said.

Santee Cooper will launch $113 million in new energy efficiency programs this fall. The company has a goal of having 40 percent of electricity coming from nongreenhouse gas-emitting resources, biomass, energy efficiency and conservation by 2020, Varn said.

Peggy Brown, who was representing the League of Women Voters and the state Sierra Club, said the key is moving away from coal.

"I don't believe they provided a concrete, evidenced need for the plant,'' Brown said.

After public comments at the meeting, Santee Cooper Board Chairman O.L. Thompson asked the company's president to further evaluate the plans for the plant and come back to the board with an analysis or recommendation at the August meeting.

"This is a period of unprecedented challenges,'' Varn said. "We always evaluate and make sure we are where we need to be, and there are a lot of changes in the industry right now.''

Santee Cooper isn't the only Carolinas power company wanting to raise rates.

On Monday, Duke Energy Carolinas filed requests with the Public Service Commission of South

Carolina to make adjust ments to customer bills, including a general rate increase of 9.3 percent.

It would be the first general rate increase for the company since 1991.

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