by Mike Couick, President and CEO of The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina
I’VE ALWAYS BEEN A BELIEVER IN THE MAXIM that nothing happens without a plan. It’s true in everyday life, and it’s especially true for South Carolina’s member-owned electric cooperatives.Managers and trustees from 20 South Carolina electric cooperatives were on hand for the signing of an updated coordination agreement between Central Electric Power Cooperative and Santee Cooper.Thinking ahead is essential when you operate the state’s largest utility network. From humble beginnings in the 1930s and 1940s, our 20 co-ops now operate more than 70,000 miles of power line and deliver electricity in all 46 counties. In all, more than 1.5 million South Carolinians use power from electric cooperatives. It didn’t happen by accident.
Maintaining and growing that network is a weighty responsibility, and why the leaders of our state’s electric co-ops have been working hard for the past three years to negotiate a deal that will ensure your community continues to enjoy reliable, affordable and environmentally responsible power for decades to come.
The wholesale electricity aggregator for the state’s independent electric co-ops, Central Electric Power Cooperative, recently signed a multi-billion-dollar cost-saving extension of an agreement to purchase power from Santee Cooper, the state’s largest electricity producer. That’s right—savings in the multi-billions, spelled with a “b.”
Cooperatives have been buying power from Santee Cooper since the 1950s. The original coordination agreement, outlining how the co-ops and the state-run utility would work together to build and maintain a power grid for the benefit of all South Carolinians, was first signed in 1980 and last modified in 1988.
The revised agreement, which now runs through 2058, will benefit all cooperative consumers as well as Santee Cooper’s wholesale and direct-served customers. Some of the biggest savings will come from lower borrowing costs. Utility networks must be built out—and paid for—over the span of decades, and having a long-term agreement in place will lower the cost of bond issues required to finance new construction and modernization projects.
Ronald J. Calcaterra, president and CEO of Central, says the agreement also sets the framework for a “true and effective partnership” between cooperatives and Santee Cooper as they plan for future energy needs in a changing technological and regulatory environment.
“We’ll all benefit from joint planning and cooperation between the two organizations,” he says. “Better planning always leads to better outcomes.”