Santee Cooper Dramatically Reduces Reliance on Coal
Monday, April 15th, 2019
In 2018, Santee Cooper generated approximately 46 percent of its electric power from coal, 21 percent from natural gas, another 21 percent from purchases that are largely natural-gas fueled, 10 percent from nuclear, and 2 percent from hydro and renewables. This marks a dramatic change from just 10 years ago, when nearly 80 percent of the system generation came from coal.
This reduction can be attributed to Santee Cooper’s commitment to develop a more balanced energy portfolio that keeps costs low and properly positions its needs with expected future demand. With diverse generating resources Santee Cooper can dispatch first, the low-cost resource on any given day, which has produced a typical residential bill that is lowest among the large utilities in the state.
While much of the coal replacement has been with natural gas, Santee Cooper has also steadily grown its portfolio of renewable carbon free and carbon-neutral energy. In 2001, Santee Cooper became the first utility in South Carolina to produce electric power using methane gas from landfills as a fuel source. Santee Cooper now has six landfill-gas generating sites across the state located in Horry, Lee, Georgetown, Richland, Anderson and Berkeley counties—a generating capability of 29 megawatts.
At the same time, Santee Cooper continues to expand its utilization of solar power. Beginning in 2007, Santee Cooper introduced a Green Power Solar Schools program for middle schools around the state. At participating schools, Santee Cooper and the local electric cooperative install solar panels as well as provide a science curriculum for teachers. Some 28 schools across the state now participate in the program.
Additionally, Santee Cooper has five solar demonstration projects in the state. The 16-kilowatt display at Coastal Carolina University in Conway was the first Green Power solar site dedicated in South Carolina. Two additional 20-kW displays reside at the Center for Hydrogen Research in Aiken and the Technical College of the Lowcountry in Bluffton. Other installations include an 8 kW system installed at York Electric Cooperative's office in Fort Mill, the 311-kW Grand Strand Solar Station in Myrtle Beach. and the Bell Bay Solar Farm, a 2-MW solar farm located in Horry County’s Bucksville community.
The largest single source of solar power to date for Santee Cooper is the Colleton Solar Farm, a 3-MW facility. With 10,010 solar panels covering approximately 14 acres, Colleton Solar was built in 2013 and is owned by TIG Sun Energy, a division of The InterTech Group, under contract with Santee Cooper.
While Santee Cooper continues to expand its solar capacity, it also has been actively helping customers reduce energy consumption through its “Reduce The Use South Carolina” energy-efficiency program, launched in September 2009. The goal of this 10-year-long effort was to substantially reduce the use of electricity and improve energy efficiency by 2020 among its residential and commercial customers, through rebate programs and other incentives. The Santee Cooper team has already achieved the goal, two years early. This effort translates to $250 million in customer savings so far since the plan’s inception, with annual energy savings enough to power 16,500 average homes annually. Nearly half of Santee Cooper’s customers have used Reduce the Use programs to save money.