Monday, August 27, 2007

Op-Ed Requests Santee Cooper Walk the Talk

At a South Carolina Solar Council meeting in Conway last Friday, a Santee Cooper representative touted utility's green power program. The program works by encouraging homeowners and businesses to purchase "blocks" of renewable energy. One block represents 100 kWh (i.e. the amount of energy needed to operate a100 100 watt light bulbs for 10 hours -- not that I recommend using those old 100 W incandescent bulbs; buy CFLs!). Each block costs $3 and can be paid via the electric bill. The money raised through the sale of blocks is then invested in green power projects.

Currently Santee Cooper invests this money in projects that extract methane from landfills and burns the gas for electricity. It has also invested in a few small solar power projects and has plans to expand its solar installations to local schools. According to the rep, the program has resulted in over 50 MW of new renewable energy capacity for the utility.

Sara Tansey, writing in todays Myrtle Beach Sun Times is clearly aware of these efforts and makes the obvious point: If Santee Cooper is so (justifiably) proud of its efforts to produce clean energy, why doom them by foisting an expensive, polluting coal plant on the public? Why not aggressively expand its green power program? Why not market it extensively so that the majority of its customers participate? Or why not make it the standard offer and simply ask those who feel strongly that they do not (or cannot) support green power to opt-out? Why not market green tags statewide or nationwide? Or better: why not support a state law that requires utilities to produce a certain percentage of its electricity from clean AND renewable fuels? In truth, to NOT do these things, WHILE insisting on the need for a massive, dirty coal plant, suggests that Santee Cooper isn't really serious about green power at all. It suggests that the green power program is just a way to distract the public from Santee Cooper's real game (i.e. COAL). Which is a shame.

As Ms. Tansey wrote this morning:

Santee Cooper's mission is to be the state's leading resource for improving the quality of life for the people of South Carolina. So I would like to challenge Santee Cooper not to force upon the state an environmentally harmful, unhealthy source of energy when there's so much hidden potential right there in Santee Cooper's portfolio. The people of South Carolina are innovative, intelligent, and ready to meet the challenge of developing cleaner energy sources.

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