The new CEO of Santee Cooper, Mark Bonsall, told journalists this week that the public power utility plans to shut down one of its two coal-fired power plants over the next 10 years.
On Wednesday Bonsall met with employees at the Winyah Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant that has four generation units built in the 1970s and 80s, the Post and Courier’s Andrew Brown reported. Santee Cooper anticipates closing two units by 2023 and the other two by 2027 as the utility transitions away from coal-fired power, according to Brown.
Officials tapped Bonsall as CEO in July, putting the former head of Arizona’s Salt River Project utility to work immediately on modernizing Santee Cooper, Utility Dive’s Robert Walton pointed out. The troubled state-owned utility provides electricity directly or indirectly to 2 million South Carolinians.
“Bonsall’s plan to eliminate coal-fired generation comes at a time of uncertainty about the power company’s future,” Sammy Fretwell explained in the Charlotte Observer. “Gov. Henry McMaster is pushing to sell Santee Cooper to help pay off the debt the company incurred from a nuclear construction project failure that soaked ratepayers for billions of dollars. Santee Cooper and partner SCE&G quit the nuclear project two years ago.”
South Carolina lawmakers pushed a decision about the sale to next year, the State reported in May.
Last year, 46% of the utility’s generation came from coal units, according to the latest data available. Mollie Gore, a Santee Cooper spokesperson, told Utility Dive’s Walton that they aim to increase solar capacity and add battery storage. Citing SourceWatch, Walton noted that Winyah is a 1,260-MW facility.
“For the past several months, Santee Cooper has been developing a new business plan that is focused on improving performance, further reducing costs to customers, minimizing our carbon footprint, and building trust among our customers and other stakeholders,” the utility said in a blog post on Monday. An official announcement is set for September 3.