Any company which may buy South Carolina’s state-owned utility Santee Cooper would inherit a company laden with debt after an abandoned nuclear project.
CEO Lonnie Carter told a state Senate panel last week that the company has financial obligations. Santee Cooper has roughly $4.4 billion in revenue bond debt directly linked to the V.C. Summer Nuclear Generating Station expansion out of $7.7 billion in total debt.
“Any costs that we’ve incurred have to be paid,” Carter told the panel.
Gov. Henry McMaster wants to sell the utility in the wake of the failed project. The governor has indicated he is in talks with several private out-of-state utilities interested in acquiring at least part of Santee Cooper. Any project would require legislative approval. Senate President pro tempore Hugh Leatherman and House Speaker Jay Lucas have indicated they would not support any sale unless they buyer also takes on Santee Cooper’s debt.
Carter said that with the abandonment of the nuclear expansion project and no major plans for the future it would be logical for customer’s electric rates to come down, but that may not be the case “because there are other costs that we’re going to have to incur that may make rates go up,” Carter told senators.
Santee Cooper and partner SCANA, parent company of South Carolina Electric & Gas, decided to pull the plug on the VC Summer project in July after years of cost overruns, falling behind schedule and the bankruptcy of the project’s lead design contractor Westinghouse.