- South Carolina's state-owned utility Santee Cooper next week will unveil a new business plan that calls for phasing out coal generation and lowering carbon emissions through the addition of cleaner technologies, the electricity provider confirmed Wednesday.
- Incoming CEO Mark Bonsall did a series of interviews with local media this week, announcing plans to shutter one of the utility's two coal-fired plants within the next 10 years.
- Bonsall, formerly head of the Salt River Project in Arizona, was selected last month to lead the troubled utility. South Carolina lawmakers have been considering selling the utility, to pay off debt from the failed V.C. Summer nuclear project.
A formal announcement will come Sept. 3, company officials say, but Santee Cooper plans to ultimately abandon coal entirely.
The new plan will need approval at Tuesday's board meeting, according to Santee Cooper spokesperson Mollie Gore.
"We're looking to modernize and move to a greener energy resource mix," Gore told Utility Dive. "We will be closing one coal-fired generating station over the next 10 years but also increasing our solar capacity and adding battery storage."
The utility currently gets about 46% of its electricity from coal plants, along with gas and nuclear.
The plan to eliminate the Winyah generating station will help the utility mothball the plant with minimal impacts on employees. "It gives you flexibility to plan, and reduce headcount by attrition and retirement where appropriate. The goal is to do this without any layoffs," said Gore.
According to SourceWatch, the 1,260-MW Winyah facility has four units, with the oldest operating since the 1975. Two units would come offline in 2023, with the remaining pair operating until 2027.
Santee Cooper in a blog post on Monday announced that for the past several months it "has been developing a new business plan that is focused on improving performance, further reducing costs to customers, minimizing our carbon footprint, and building trust among our customers and other stakeholders."
In 2017, Santee Cooper and its partner on the project, South Carolina Electric & Gas, announced they were abandoning development of the VC Summer nuclear project after costs spiraled to exceed $25 billion — a 75% increase over initial estimates. The two utilities spent $9 billion before pulling the plug.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, R, has floated the idea of selling the utility so that customers are not forced to pay for the nuclear debacle.