Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bad Investment

More bad news for those touting the economic benefits of a coal plant in our state. It might put money in the pockets of folks in other states (and countries) though...

Study questions power plant benefits
By Kyle Stock
The Post and Courier
Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Santee Cooper's controversial coal-burning power plant proposed for Florence County would not generate nearly as much of an economic windfall as the utility estimated, according to a new study from an environmental watchdog.

The Coastal Conservation League, a Charleston-based nonprofit, commissioned a report that said 68 percent of the dollars spent on the power plant will go out of state, and four out of five jobs will be filled by "non-local" workers, including all of the 112 or so permanent employees who will run the facility once it is built.
This is an artist's rendering of Santee Cooper's proposed coal-fired power plant in Florence County.

Scott Moore, a former Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce statistician who crunched the numbers for the Conservation League, pegged the plant's total economic impact in South Carolina at $542.6 million, 35 percent less than the estimate in a report commissioned by Santee Cooper, $839.1 million.

"A coal plant just isn't a good way to create jobs," said Ben Moore, a project manager at the league. "Whether this plan is debated on economic terms or health terms, it's just the wrong answer for South Carolina."

Santee Cooper has asked regulators for permission to build a 600-megawatt coal-burning power plant near the tiny town of Kingsburg in Florence County. The utility said it needs to fire up the facility by 2012 or its customers could face brownoutsand blackouts.

Though environmental watchdogs have long sparred with the state-owned utility over the proposed plant's pollution levels, the league's study is the first to challenge the economics of the facility.

In December, Santee Cooper received a bullish economic-impact report commissioned from Francis Marion University. That study said about 1,200 workers would be needed to build the plant, while some 639 other laborers would be required to support the construction in a variety of roles, from serving meals to delivering materials.

All told, workers tied to the plant would draw $481 million in wages during the five years it would take to build the Pee Dee generator. Santee Cooper would spend another $537 million in South Carolina on construction materials and other expenses, according to the Francis Marion researchers.

However, the Conservation League consultant said most of those workers would come from outside the area and take their paychecks with them when they leave.

Barry O'Brien, dean of Francis Marion University's business school and an author of the Santee Cooper study, stood by his analysis Monday.

"I hate the term apples and oranges, but (Moore) was looking at economic impact for the region and we were looking at economic impact for the state," he said.

O'Brien said his group also looked closely at where Santee Cooper would buy goods and services and how much of that money would "leak" across state borders.

It's likely that both studies are already outdated. Late last month, Santee Cooper said the first phase of its proposed plant would cost $1.25 billion, one-fourth more than the $998 million it originally estimated. Santee Cooper blamed the increase on surging costs for construction materials and delays in getting state and federal permits.

A growing number of utilities pursuing coal plants are finding construction costs, and concerns about global warming and mercury pollution, making such projects too expensive. U.S. power companies canceled or postponed plans to build more than 45 coal-burning generators in 2007, according to Energy Department statistics.

Reach Kyle Stock at 937-5763 or kstock@postandcourier.com.

1 comment:

Sig said...

Wow. Who'd have thought that a study commissioned by the Coastal Conservation League would have shown less jobs being produced? That ranks up there with Morton Salt providing a study that says using road salt saves thousands of lives during winter. Follow the money, children...