South Carolina utility says state not getting enough credit for nuclear

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) plan to cut carbon dioxide from existing plants does not sufficiently credit developers of new nuclear power units, a representative of Santee Cooper said July 29.

Santee Cooper Vice President of Legal Services Elizabeth Warner made her comments in written testimony prepared for a field hearing in Atlanta on the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

Santee Cooper is South Carolina’s state-owned utility. It is a minority partner with SCANA (NYSE: SCG) utility South Carolina Electric and Gas in building the new Units 2 and 3 at the V.C. Summer nuclear station in South Carolina.

“By considering these under-construction units as if they are already built, and in doing so setting our goal more restrictively, you are punishing South Carolina for being proactive in its CO2 reductions and investing early in this project,” Warner said in her prepared testimony.

EPA should not count under construction nuclear as part of the state target, but should allow it to be used for compliance with the revised target, Warner said. 

Santee Cooper has already cut CO2 emissions by 23% since 2005. Santee Cooper expects to cut its CO2 emissions a total 44% by 2029, compared to 2005, Warner said.

Santee Cooper is cutting emissions by retiring four older coal units; increased use of natural gas generation and running existing fossil plants at maximum efficiency – in addition to building some of the first new U.S. nuclear reactors in 30 years.

Together SCANA and Santee Cooper are spending $10bn on the new Summer nuclear units.

“The end result [of EPA’s plan] is consumers in South Carolina will have to pay again for high cost CO2 reductions from renewables and other measures that are not cost effective for our state,” Warner said.

It appears that these early actions to reduce CO2 are being discounted and South Carolinians will be asked to spend far more money to achieve a target stricter than that asked of 47 other states, Warner said.

South Carolina’s 2012 emission rate, taking into account all current generating units that can be used to meet the goal, is 1587 lbs CO2 per MWh — which is about the midpoint among the states. The draft rule sets a final 2030 target for South Carolina of 772 lbs CO2 per MWh. That equates to a 51% reduction, the third most significant percent reduction from 2012 levels among all 50 states.

Other states with similar current emission rates are treated much differently, Warner noted. For example, Iowa emitted 1,552 lbs CO2 per MWh and faces a target emissions reduction of just 16%.

“The draft rule makes many assumptions about electricity generation in South Carolina,” Warner said. “We want to make sure EPA understands our state’s specific challenges. EPA has proposed building blocks to help states achieve lower emissions, things like increasing nuclear generation, natural gas, renewables and energy efficiency. However, many of the assumptions for these ‘building blocks’ are not a good fit for South Carolina.”

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.