Published Feb. 1, 2012
South Carolina’s electric cooperatives and the state-owned electric utility Santee Cooper joined efforts today to lower electric rates for new and expanding industries to boost economic development in the rural areas of the state that they serve.
The new rate will be available to companies that sign up before Dec. 31, 2014; that agree to be a customer for eight years; and that have a constant load demand of at least one megawatt of electricity.
The rate reduction will be for four years and could result in a cost reduction of 20% for electricity over the life of the contract. The new economic development rate reduces the demand charge after a qualifying industry begins operation. The demand charge can represent 40% of an industry’s total power bill.
The savings will vary with the size and characteristics of the electric load, officials said. For example, a plant operating on three work shifts (24 hours) would benefit more than a plant operating only one shift.
Twenty independent, member-owned electric cooperatives serving 1.5 million customers, and state-owned electric and water utility Santee Cooper together provide power in all 46 counties in the state.
“Even in the face of increasing power-production fuel prices for coal and natural gas, we must look for ways to grow the state’s economy,” said Ron Calcaterra, CEO of Central Electric Power Cooperative, electricity supplier to the electric cooperatives.
An emphasis on industrial growth by the cooperatives and Santee Cooper is particularly important because they provide power to much of the areas where expansion is likely to take place — rural and suburban areas, officials said.
“One of our goals is to promote economic growth in South Carolina by attracting capital investment and business expansion,” said Lonnie Carter, president and CEO of Santee Cooper. “By partnering with Central and the electric cooperatives in the development of this new rate, we’ve produced another key incentive for recruiters to bring additional jobs to our state.”
Santee Cooper sells more electricity to Central than to any other customer, and Central purchases much of its power needs from Santee Cooper. Together, they serve more consumers than any other electric utility in the state. The new economic development rate is available to any industrial customer that is served by the co-ops or Santee Cooper.
Central and Santee Cooper also promote growth through their jointly-funded South Carolina Power Team, the only statewide non-governmental economic development organization.
“The rural areas of South Carolina are becoming increasingly attractive to new industry,” said Ralph Thomas, president of the S.C. Power Team, which represents the electric cooperatives and Santee Cooper in recruiting industry. “Economic development incentive rates will be a tremendous asset in bringing new businesses and jobs to those areas.”
Thomas noted that in a recent survey of corporate executives by Area Development magazine, energy availability and costs was ranked No. 9 among 26 major site selection factors.
The new rate will be offered to the 20 electric cooperatives in the Central Electric system effective Feb. 1. The final rate for the cooperatives may not be completed for several weeks, but any current projects considering a cooperative-served site will have access to the new rate.
“If we are going to compete with China and India, we must have an economy based upon ideas and energy,” said Mike Couick, CEO of The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina Inc.
The co-ops operate the state’s largest electric power system with 70,000 miles of power lines across 70% of the state.