This article was originally published by The State on May 8, 2018.
At first glance, Santee Cooper customers seem to be getting a better deal than SCANA customers. However, unlike state-owned Santee Cooper, SCANA has shareholders who can absorb some of the losses from the failed nuclear construction project; Santee Cooper has only debt-holders and customers.
As my research explained, Santee Cooper is only servicing its debt from the project, not principal. It still owes $9 billion in principal and amortized interest.
South Carolinians are the only source of funds Santee Cooper has to absorb the defunct project. How much more customers must pay depends on the extent of reduced customer demand at higher prices, whether or not the Central Electric Power Cooperative will pay higher rates and when rates are increased (the longer the delay, the higher they must go).
Santee Cooper and co-op customers throughout our state are shouldering a large debt — more than $9 billion of principal and interest if it isn’t paid off until 2056. This is a festering wound that needs treatment ASAP, because it will continue to get worse with time.
Dr. Katie Player is a co-author of Santee Cooper’s Uncertain Future, published by Palmetto Promise Institute.