The largest financial disaster in South Carolina history didn’t happen overnight.
May 2008 – The start of this fiasco. SCE&G and Santee Cooper announced a nuclear expansion project at the VC Summer plant. Since the announcement of the VC Summer Project eleven years ago, several delays and massive problems were hidden by the project’s leadership.
There are several key dates before the most recent decision to explore the sale, but we’re focusing on the monumental dates that reveal SCE&G and Santee Cooper’s poor leadership, lack of transparency, and what led customers to be responsible for Santee Cooper’s $8 billion debt.
February 2009 – The nuclear expansion plan is approved and construction is set to begin in 2012 with the first reactor to begin operating in 2016 and the second in 2019.
November 2009 – Santee Cooper approves and implements a 3.4% rate increase to help pay for the project.
December 2011 – The project gets off to a rocky start with the first delay being reported by SCE&G for production issues, manpower issues, and the need to redesign nuclear modules.
December 2012 – Santee Cooper approves and implements another 1.8% increase to rates.
June 2013 – Another delay follows pushing the first reactor operation date to late 2017-early 2018.
December 2013 – Santee Cooper approves and implements yet another rate increase. This time a whopping 5.2% to help pay for the struggling project.
May 2014 – Obvious signs of trouble appear and Santee Cooper asks to hire an outside company to oversee the project.
October 2014 – Money trouble becomes more apparent when contractors say it will cost an additional one billion dollars to complete the reactors.
October 2015 – Westinghouse is brought on board and completion dates are rescheduled yet again. The project is now pushed back to late 2019-early 2020.
December 2015 – During this time, SCE&G asked the Public Service Commission of the Office of Regulatory Staff to increase rates to help fund the project. Santee Cooper has its own board of directors and doesn’t have to get rate hikes approved by anyone except its own board, so Santee Cooper increases rates to help fund the project.
April 2016 – Another rate increase is approved and implemented by Santee Cooper. Customers see their rates go up by 5.3% this time.
June 2016 – SCE&G asks for its ninth rate increase.
March 2017 – Westinghouse files for bankruptcy. The company cites $9 billion in losses from its two nuclear construction projects, one of which is the VC Summer project.
April 2017 – Santee Cooper increases rates another 2.1%.
July 2017 – Shortly after this, Santee Cooper and SCE&G announced they were abandoning the project even though customers have already paid up to $2 billion for the reactors.
At this point, much of the general public was still unaware of the financial effects it was having on them.
August 2017 – A special South Carolina Senate committee holds their first of MANY hearings and former Santee Cooper CEO Lonnie Carter announces his retirement.
September 2017 – A month later Santee Cooper turns over the Betchel report detailing their insufficient oversight of the project.
January 2018 – SCE&G customers hear good news when Dominion Energy announces it will purchase SCANA Corp.
June 2018 – A state audit reports that the final amount for the failed project could increase by over $400 million.
August 2018 – A 15 percent rate cut and refund for April-July charges begin appearing on SCE&G bills. Meanwhile, Santee Cooper customers are still continuing to pay for the failed nuclear disaster.
March 2019 – Santee Cooper executives are unable to answer important questions about the future of Santee Cooper and rates during a Senate hearing. Following this, South Carolina Senate President Harvey Peeler introduces legislation that calls for exploring options for a possible Santee Cooper sale.
April 2019 – Santee Cooper announces rate increases totaling about 7% between 2021-2024 with no PSC oversight.
May 2019 – Lawmakers adopt this resolution and will begin exploring options to sell Santee Cooper. Read more about what this resolution means, here.
July 2019 – The two-year anniversary of the abandonment of the failed V.C. Summer project that started back in 2008, over a decade ago, yet Santee Cooper direct serve and electric co-op customers are still paying for this massive financial disaster.