We hit the “power on” button and the flat screen comes to life. We don’t give it a second thought. Those of us in the power business want it that way. Our modern way of life, with electricity as a bedrock, has given us the creature comforts of home unimaginable only a few generations ago.
Keeping that power flowing, reliability and affordably, is an ongoing challenge for Santee Cooper. That’s why it was good news this week when Santee Cooper and Central Electric Power Cooperative signed a long-term agreement for power, with Santee Cooper as the source, for the state’s 20 electric-distribution co-ops. I’m a proud member of two: Berkeley Electric Co-op, the state’s largest, and Santee Electric Co-op.
One may quite naturally ask, “Why does Central exist?” or “Why doesn’t Santee Cooper sell power directly to the 20 individual co-ops?” The answer is multifaceted, but basically, like Rome, the power system that end-users on the Santee Cooper-co-op system benefit from, wasn’t built in a day.
Santee Cooper began generating power on Feb. 17, 1942, eight years after being created by the General Assembly. From the beginning, the intent was for Santee Cooper to have retail or direct customers.
But another reason for Santee Cooper’s creation was to provide power to the state’s growing list of electric co-ops, which began forming in the late 1930s and early 1940s. In order to advance the construction of transmission lines in S.C., the Central Electric Power Cooperative was formed in Columbia in 1948.
Creating Central kicked lighting up the countryside into high gear. On Jan. 4, 1949, Santee Cooper and Central signed an agreement, with Santee Cooper as Central’s long-term source of power.
Central is Santee Cooper’s largest single customer, accounting for about 60 percent of the electricity Santee Cooper generates. From there, Central sells power to the 20 individual co-ops.
As someone on the receiving end of two co-op bills, and working here, I see firsthand that Santee Cooper works mightily, day in and day out, to keep power production costs down. This benefits Central, in addition to Santee Cooper’s own retail and commercial customers in Berkeley, Georgetown and Horry counties. That’s also true for Santee Cooper’s 30 industrial customers in 10 counties.
Our relationship with Central and the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina is a strong one. The May 20 signing ceremony has assured everyone (including bond-rating agencies) that this partnership will continue far into the future.