S.C. nuke plant failure highlights need for energy competition, solar

The V.C. Summer nuclear project was billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule when utility executives voted today not to continue the project. (© Post and Courier)

Today South Carolina utilities Santee Cooper and SCE&G announced they are abandoning nuclear reactors at the VC Summer power plant after years of blown budgets and schedules.

The customers of SCE&G face some of the highest utility bills in the nation, mostly to underwrite the financial meltdown of the Summer plant. Santee Cooper customers have also seen bills rise, even as the nuclear units would have left the utility awash in too much power.

Customers – including many on fixed incomes – are bearing the brunt what will be one of the largest utility failures in history, and will continue to pay for years even though the plant will never come on line. Decision makers pushed forward with rate hikes, ignored warning signs, and turned aside pleas from customers to lessen their burdens with cost-saving energy efficiency programs.

“This is a $9 billion hole in the ground, and the only good that can come from this would be to revamp energy policy in South Carolina,” said Blan Holman, Managing Attorney in SELC’s Charleston office. “The entire system is rigged to reward utilities to take massive and ill-informed risks at the expense of South Carolina electric customers. This can’t continue.”

The current power-supply system in South Carolina is biased towards building massive and costly facilities on the backs of customers while delivering handsome profits to backers, even if the plants fail.

A more efficient system would encourage locally based solar power stations that could provide a similar volume of energy at a fraction of the cost.

“We have the opportunity to learn from this costly mistake, and to completely rework the ways South Carolinians get their power,” Holman said. “Instead of spending billions on new, massive cash-burning plants as the hub of the system, we need more competition and more options for families and businesses to choose energy independence through solar.  That saves money and spreads jobs and tax revenue to more communities.”

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