January 29, 2019 Read More →

South Carolina co-ops concerned about state’s high-cost coal power

The Post and Courier:

South Carolina’s electric cooperatives want Santee Cooper to study if coal is the cheapest way to provide electricity to customers, questioning whether the state-run utility should cease operating some of its aging coal-fired power plants.

Officials with Central Electric Power, the group that negotiates power prices for all 20 co-ops, pressured utility Santee Cooper on Monday into reviewing whether to shutter one coal boiler at Cross Station on the banks of Lake Moultrie. And they proposed studying the future of four other coal-fired units at Winyah Station near Georgetown.

“Because of economics — I won’t even say environmental — most organizations are having to take a hard look at what they are going to do about coal,” said Robert Hochstelter, Central Electric’s chief executive. “If we can’t work together and figure out how we can save money, then we have problems,” Hochstelter added.

Hochstetler’s pitch was made in front of a 12-member board made up of six representatives from Santee Cooper and six representatives from the state’s electric cooperatives. The gathering agreed to analyze the Cross Station’s Unit 2, which came online in 1983. But Santee Cooper’s representatives balked at the idea of studying the viability of the entire Winyah Station, which has produced power since 1975.

The official request from the cooperatives — Santee Cooper’s largest customers — comes at a time when utilities across the country continue to ditch coal power for more efficient natural gas turbines and solar arrays. More than 23,400 megawatts of coal-fired power were shuttered nationwide in the past two years, according to an analysis by Reuters, even as President Donald Trump’s administration sought to cut regulations for the industry.

More: Santee Cooper asked to reconsider coal-fired power plants by largest customers

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