Electric Co-ops in South Carolina
Electric Cooperatives Timeline
Page 4 of 4 1980 to 1989
The year 1980 marked the beginning of an even stronger relationship between cooperatives and Santee Cooper with signing of the Power System Coordination and Integration Agreement.
Women Involved in Rural Electrification (WIRE) began in 1982 as the charitable arm of many electric cooperatives, which assists disaster victims, homeless shelters, children’s homes, and a host of community programs.
The Duke Power-operated Catawba Nuclear Station began commercial operation in 1985, with Saluda River Electric Cooperative owning 18.8 percent of Unit 1.
Heightened challenges to electric cooperatives arrived in 1986 with the Reagan Administration proposing sell-off of Power Marketing Administrations such as Southeastern, but Congress prohibited such a sell-off.
In 1988, Central’s economic development department joined that of Santee Cooper to form the Palmetto Economic Development Corporation, which provides economic development support to all electric cooperatives.
Hurricane Hugo ripped through South Carolina in September 1989. More than 3,000 cooperative employees from other states rebuilt over 11,000 miles of power lines.
Palmetto Electric Cooperative launched Operation Round Up in 1989 to let cooperative members to round up their bill payments and help fund local relief projects. Hundreds of cooperatives across the country went on to follow the example.
1990 to 1999
The Rural Utilities Service assumed functions of the REA in 1994.
The year 1998 marked the response by electric cooperatives to proposed deregulation of the electric utility industry. Cooperatives began urging lawmakers to take a cautious approach to deregulation.
The same year saw the launch of Touchstone Energy, the national brand for electric cooperatives. More than 700 cooperatives share the Touchstone Energy brand to help tell the cooperative story of integrity, accountability, innovation and commitment to their communities.
New Horizon Electric Cooperative started providing transmission service to Saluda River member cooperatives in June 1998.
On what would prove to be a red-letter day, leaders of all 20 electric cooperatives gathered in Washington, D.C. with officials from the Rural Utilities Service on May 6, 1999. That day, they signed an agreement to strengthen cooperatives and hold down power costs by admitting Saluda River into the membership of Central.
2000 to present
As part of the agreement, Santee Cooper power was dispatched for the first time to Saluda River member cooperatives beginning January 1, 2001. Santee Cooper power now was delivered to all South Carolina cooperatives.
Electric cooperatives had long been recognized as catalysts of economic development. Findings in 2003 confirmed that more than 300 industries on cooperative lines employed approximately 30,000 residents.
In 2004, the law was changed to allow municipalities to choose cooperatives as service providers.
Cooperatives in 2005 helped bring about legislation strengthening Santee Cooper’s governance.
By 2006, cooperatives and Santee Cooper had become the first utilities in the state to sell renewable energy in the form of Green Power.
A long-term, multifaceted approach to promote conservation practices began in 2007 with a commitment to invest 1 percent of gross sales into the advancement of renewables and energy efficiency.
That commitment was strongly demonstrated in 2008 with the distribution of 1.7 million compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs during the first phase of a multi-year program to put 10 million CFL bulbs in members’ homes and businesses.
Electric cooperatives were the sole sponsors of two Honor Flights of World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., in 2012 to visit the national memorial constructed in their honor. Through their magazine, South Carolina Living, co-ops appealed to more than one million readers, hoping to find 100 vets to take the trip. In April and September, 185 made the trip. A 212-page book of amazing stories and photographs tells their stories.
The book is available online.
In 2010, S.C. co-ops and Duke Energy inked an agreement to have co-ops purchase some future power supplies from Duke, reducing demand on the Santee Cooper system and allowing the cancellation of a proposed coal-fired power plant in the Pee Dee area. In Washington, a co-op idea born in S.C. grew into the proposed national Rural Energy Savings Program Act that would provide loan funds through cooperatives to retrofit thousands of homes to be more energy efficient, and the S.C. Legislature agreed to allow utilities to include the loan payment conveniently on the consumer’s monthly utility bill.