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January 25th, 2021
By Shelley Robbins
The SC Legislature has completed its second of 18 weeks, largely remotely due to security and COVID-19 concerns. Committees met but only the Senate convened in chambers and only on Thursday. Currently in the Statehouse, very few are allowed in the Lobby and even the many community introductions (recognizing visiting groups) are on hold. Hopefully, this means the chamber assemblies will move along at a rapid pace and more can be accomplished in a shorter amount of time.
Santee Cooper seems like a topic far removed from the Upstate, but in fact it and Dominion and Duke are tied to us by pipelines. A lot of pipelines. So many pipelines that we must plant our feet and say Enough — no more. The graphic below shows just how many liquid petroleum (in blue) and natural gas (in red) transmission-size pipelines cross our Upstate counties. Spartanburg County wins the prize with a stunning 347 miles of massive transmission pipelines. I will fully unpack the implications and impacts of all of these pipelines in a future special blog, but they range from environmental damage to assaults on property rights via eminent domain.
Because of this, we have a vested interest in Santee Cooper's resource plan as they work to close down coal-fired plants on the coast. We do not think these plants should be replaced with new gas generation, and we have good reason to think more gas (and more pipelines) isn't necessary.
Santee Cooper historically hasn't tried very hard on energy efficiency. Data compiled annually by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy shows Santee Cooper's efficiency achievements actually falling from a meager .1% of retail sales in 2018 to a dismal .08% in 2019. The 2020 numbers will be released Wednesday and we aren't likely to see improvement. By comparison, Duke Energy Carolinas, here in our backyard, achieved 1.03% in 2019. Lest one think that a purchase by NextEra will solve this problem, note that NextEra's Florida Power and Light did no better than Santee Cooper with .08%. Energy efficiency investments are cheap, low hanging fruit that never become a stranded asset.
Santee Cooper is also way short on solar generation, both utility-scale and rooftop. And to make solar a truly flexible, dispatchable resource, it can be paired with battery storage. Utility-scale solar plus storage is no longer just a California thing. Prices have come down so much that Pine Gate Renewables has started on a solar+storage project in North Carolina, with more to come. These are just two of the clean energy and efficiency options available to meet power needs in a cost-effective manner without more natural gas. Read more in this report by Synapse Energy Economics.
Here is an excellent article from the Post and Courier summarizing the debate over Santee Cooper and the bills that have been filed.
Each year, the SC Conservation Coalition is invited to brief the Senate on the the bills and issues that are most important to our organizations. This year's hosts are Senator Chip Campsen and Senator Thomas McElveen.
Due to COVID restrictions, our briefing will be virtual and everyone is invited. Join us via Zoom (just click that link) on Wednesday, January 27th at 10 am. There is no pre-registration. The briefing will also be streamed live on the Statehouse website (right here). Choose whichever option works the best for you.
Not much happened on our issues this past week. The House has begun working on the budget, which will be a priority. The House's Santee Cooper sale/reform bill H. 3194 has passed out of committee and will be on the floor this coming week.
If you missed last week's update that outlined several of the bills and budget items we will be following, click here to catch it.
Until next week...
Energy and State Policy Director
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