Central Electric Power Cooperative

COLUMBIA, SC – Central Electric Power Cooperative decided today to develop a multi-part solution to the need for more power supply, surprising some observers who had anticipated a single power plant. Central aggregates power supply for 20 independent, member-owned electric distribution cooperatives that serve more than 1.7 million South Carolinians through 860,000 accounts.

The multi-part Central plan will combine purchases from existing power plants; aggregated consumer-level resources such as voluntary programs that help consumers limit their peak power needs; large-scale initiatives such as battery installations; and the pursuit of power from any new generators that might be built in the state.

“The details of these decisions will be worked out through the next year,” said Robert C. Hochstetler, Central’s president and CEO. “We’ve examined many options looking for the best approach. Both our staff and consultants have worked hard to find the optimal solution for our members’ needs.”

Today’s decision follows Central’s decision six months ago not to participate in a new natural gas-fired power plant proposed by Santee Cooper on the grounds of the Winyah Generating Station, a coal-fired plant near Georgetown. Santee Cooper plans to close the last coal-fired generating unit at Winyah by 2029.

The decision by the cooperative set in motion a process by which Central and Santee Cooper must agree on how to meet their power generation needs. When the Winyah plant goes offline, the jointly operated Central-Santee Cooper system will lose 1,150 megawatts (MW) of electric generation capacity. Meanwhile, electricity sales are growing.

The contract between the organizations contains an amendment agreed to in 2013, which anticipates two ways to meet those capacity needs. The first option, when Santee Cooper proposes a generation resource that would be shared by the system, would be for Central to choose to participate in the venture. The second option, if Central chooses not to participate in the proposed shared resource, is for the two parties to bring to the table their “load ratio share” of the need, that is, each would be responsible for sourcing the percentage of power it uses from the combined system.

The utilities first used that feature of the contract when searching for solar capacity. Central decided to contract separately for its share and has agreements in place with solar developers.

The multi-part approach to Central’s share of the latest proposed shared resource was not a preconceived notion, Hochstetler said.

“I think there were several members of the staff and certainly a number of our board members who were surprised, but we went where our requirements and the opportunities took us,” he said. “The solution had to be affordable, the power supply had to be reliable, and we needed to be ready by 2029.”

Central’s load ratio share of the jointly operated system is roughly 70% of the latest proposed shared resource. Central’s plan encompasses:

  • Purchase power agreements (PPAs) that would draw from existing generation capacity in South Carolina and neighboring states
  • Utility-scale batteries, a technology proved to be technically possible and currently being pursued by utilities all over the country
  • Distributed energy resources, that is, batteries, generators and demand-side management programs, all aggregated to represent a utility-scale solution. These resources, when aggregated, become utility scale that can be counted on as predictable generation capacity. These resources would grow out of FERC Order 2222, which has accelerated their advancement to utility scale
  • Delivering power using existing open access transmission regulations through neighboring utilities. The regulations allow energy to be delivered by other utilities at fair transmission costs and avoid unnecessary transmission system construction
  • Participation in future power plant(s) built in the state

Central will deliver notice of its decision to Santee Cooper, after which Santee Cooper will bring forward a plan for its share of the need.

Central Electric Power Cooperative, Inc. is a not-for-profit generation and transmission cooperative headquartered in Columbia, South Carolina. It was created in 1948 and is owned by 20 distribution cooperatives. Central and its member cooperatives provide power to approximately one third of South Carolina's population through the only statewide electric system. www.cepci.org