Legislators have signed off on the list of factors they will consider for any offers to buy state-owned power utility Santee Cooper.
A joint committee consisting of state senators, House members and the governor voted to approve the list on Tuesday. The Evaluation and Recommendation Committee plans to begin reviewing any bids after late January. Gov. Henry McMaster and some lawmakers want to sell Santee Cooper to pay off its debt from an ill-fated nuclear project. However, others want to protect one of the state’s oldest industrial assets.
The committee has hired Virginia-based company ICF Energy to gather and analyze the bids. “We’re going to have different weights of qualitative (factors),” ICF Executive Director Chairman Judah Rose told the committee. “In contrast to the two quantitative criteria, which will have the most weight, which will be rates and the actual purchase price.”
Santee Cooper has roughly $8 billion in debt, a majority of it from an ill-fated nuclear expansion partnership with South Carolina Electric & Gas. Santee Cooper abandoned the project last year after both utilities spent nearly $9 billion.
The evaluative criteria include the technical capability of a potential bidder, along with its financial resources, transition plan, local impacts at Santee Cooper’s current headquarters in Moncks Corner, employee pensions, energy diversification, and whether the buyer would maintain the utility’s dams and manmade lakes Marion and Moultrie.
Electric Cooperatives of SC CEO Mike Couick urged the committee to ensure the winning bidder has a long-term plan. “What provisions are going to be there to protect the ratepayer five, ten years out as opposed to just a temporary freeze promise?” he asked the committee during its Tuesday meeting.
The committee will make its recommendations next year, but any sale would have to be approved by the full House and Senate.