August 2, 2009

Press Release from SC Says No

Press Release from SC Says No
Nancy Cave & Ben Moore
July 27, 2009

Lack of leadership leaves Santee Cooper promoting increased electric rates to pay for dirty coal.

Energy efficiency would lower bills, avoid need for new coal.

Myrtle Beach, SC – Santee Cooper ratepayers called on Santee Cooper today to implement an aggressive, broad based energy efficiency plan to reduce electric bills, create more jobs and restore the state-owned utilities tradition of leadership. The appeal comes as Santee Cooper board members met to approve a 15 percent rate increase for residential customers over the next two years. Much of the proposed rate increase will pay for a multi- billion dollar coal plant on the Pee Dee River.

Due to rising costs of construction and operation of coal plants, as well as a discouraging regulatory environment, utilities across the country have cancelled plans for more than 90 plants in order to protect ratepayers from the high risks of coal. “Every other utility in our state has sworn off new coal plants because they are too expensive,” said Nancy Cave, Coastal Conservation League North Coast Director and Santee Cooper customer. “Other utilities are moving forward with energy efficiency, which is cleaner, cheaper and can more than adequately meet the energy demands of Santee Cooper’s customers.”

Energy efficiency, or programs and technologies designed to help ratepayers maintain or improve their standard of living while consuming less power, has been identified as a vast energy resource for the South. According to the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance, energy efficiency can reduce present day electricity use by 20 percent over the next several years, equivalent to 80 percent of the regions’ future power needs.

Santee Cooper advertises the rate hikes as the first since 1996. During the same period, however, the utility’s investments in programs that help its customers save energy and lower bills has decreased by nearly 70 percent.

“Lower income families already hurting from the recession can expect even higher bills, because their homes are so energy inefficient and poorly weatherized,” said, Grace Gifford, Clerk of Five Rivers Friends (Quakers) Meeting, and a member of SC Green Churches. Gifford continued, “Area churches will also see rate increases at the same time that their funds to help lower income families with their electric bills are drying up.” Gifford called on Santee Cooper to abandon the coal plant and help ratepayers lower their bills through efficiency.

SC Says No is a coalition of business, civic, student and conservation organizations that favors energy efficiency over Santee Cooper’s coal plant as a means to meet growing energy demand. Young people from across the state came to Myrtle Beach to participate in the public comment portion of the Santee Cooper Board meeting. Lorena Hildebrant, a student at Winthrop University, said, “Our generation cannot afford to live with the longstanding harmful effects of coal-fired energy. As young people, we realize the threat to our generation from climate change and environmental degradation, that is why we are asking Santee Cooper not to build a new coal fired plant.”

Santee Cooper rate payer and Wildlife Action Board Member, Bo Ives, said, “Now is not the time to raise the cost of living for South Carolinians by building another costly coal-burner. Santee Cooper can spend half as much on a modern energy savings program that will lower bills, generate jobs and offset the need for a new plant. Santee Cooper used to stand for improving the quality of life of South Carolinians. With a strong commitment to energy efficiency, it can lead us again”

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