Friday, February 16, 2024 News · Press Releases

Commission approves Santee Cooper’s long-term plan to build large gas plant with Dominion Energy on the Edisto River

by Lily Abromeit

Utilities have not disclosed cost or location of gas pipeline projects needed

Yesterday, the South Carolina Public Service Commission unanimously approved Santee Cooper’s long term power plan (Integrated Resource Plan, or “IRP”), greenlighting a new gas-fired power plant that would be jointly financed and owned by Dominion Energy South Carolina. The approval ignores concerns from intervenors and an independent consultant to the case about the gas plant that would be located on the Edisto River at the former site of the Canadys coal plant and would require new pipeline projects that have not been disclosed to the public.

“The Public Service Commission is supposed to serve the public through their regulation of utilities, but this blanket approval signals otherwise,” said Emily Cedzo, Director of Conservation Programs & Policy for the Coastal Conservation League. “We’re very concerned about the pollution and financial risks of this large, new gas plant, and we’re especially concerned about the lack of transparency about the pipelines necessary to serve this plant.”

The commission decision did not acknowledge evidence submitted by intervenors, including the Southern Environmental Law Center representing the Coastal Conservation League and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, showing that Santee Cooper understated the costs of building the gas plant and shortchanged cheap, clean, reliable resources like solar and batteries. An independent consultant retained by the Commission also warned that Santee Cooper did not meaningfully evaluate alternatives to the gas plant and recommended that the utility accelerate solar and storage builds in the near term.

The commission will issue a final written order in the coming months explaining how Santee Cooper’s plan meets the requirement in South Carolina law that long term utility plans are “the most reasonable and prudent” path for captive ratepayers.

“Gas power plants have proven to be unreliable, particularly in the cold. Solar plus storage, both large-scale and distributed across the grid, would improve the resilience of the system,” said Eddy Moore, Decarbonization Director at SACE. “Instead, this joint gas plant puts families and businesses across South Carolina at risk, particularly during extreme weather events.”

“Santee Cooper’s customers are already facing looming rate increases due to fuel price spikes over the last two years that put the state-owned utility hundreds of millions in debt,” said Kate Mixson, SELC Senior Attorney. “Doubling down by moving forward with the new gas plant would put its customers further at risk.”

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