Santee Cooper Continues to Reduce Use of Coal
Facts ARE Facts
The extent to which outside groups have gone to misinform the public about Santee Cooper has been excessive. We understand that legitimate questions are being asked regarding our V.C. Summer project-related debt, but we’ve seen ill-informed statements in other areas that simply have little or no resemblance to the truth. That’s promoting a myth. As this series is focused on setting the record straight about Santee Cooper, it’s time to address a repeated myth claiming that Santee Cooper is too heavily reliant on the use of coal for power generation. And the groups behind the myth certainly don’t tell you that in the last decade, Santee Cooper has made huge reductions in our coal-supplied power. So, look at the FACTS:
Fact: Santee Cooper provides power from diverse resources, including hydro, coal, nuclear, natural gas and renewables. In the first quarter of 2019, coal was 38 percent of that mix.
Fact: In 2008, 77 percent of our generated power came from coal. In 2018, it was just 46 percent.
Fact: In 2008, our natural gas power was 4 percent of our mix, with another 9 percent in purchased (primarily gas-fired) generation. In 2018, gas and purchased power totaled 42 percent, nuclear was 10 percent, and hydro/renewables were 2 percent.
Fact: In 2001, Santee Cooper became the first utility in South Carolina to produce renewable electricity using methane gas from landfills. Counting landfill gas generation, our biomass and our solar power, we have more than 250 megawatts (MW) of renewable power online or under contract.
Fact: Since 2007, Santee Cooper has led the Green Power Solar Schools program for middle schools and now has 28 such facilities across the state.
Fact: The Colleton Solar Farm, a 3-megawatt (MW) facility established in 2013, was the first utility-scale solar farm in South Carolina. It is owned and operated by TIG Sun Energy under a contract with Santee Cooper. More recently, we signed a contract with North Carolina Renewable Energy to buy the output of a 75-MW solar farm being built in Chesterfield. And we have eight other solar facilities around the state.
Fact: Related to cost — in 2008, natural gas generation was as low as $55/MWh and coal was about $22/MWh in our most efficient units. In 2018, the comparable prices were $26/MWh for natural gas and $34/MWh for coal. (The term MWh stands for “megawatt-hour” and here refers to the cost associated with one million watts of electrical power used for 1 hour.) As the cost of natural gas has dropped, Santee Cooper has responded and increased both the amount of natural gas-fueled power we generate ourselves and also how much we purchase on the market.
Fact: At certain times, we can buy natural gas-generated electricity on the open market at a cost that is cheaper than we can produce it, and we do. That helps Santee Cooper maintain rates up to 30 percent lower than state and national averages, depending on customer class.
Santee Cooper has made significant reductions in our use of coal and will continue to dispatch the best options, day in and day out, to help ensure our customers continue to enjoy low rates.
Facts are Facts.