Published Oct. 22, 2012
State-operated Santee Cooper plans to retire six electric-generating units at its two oldest stations in a move aimed at complying with new environmental regulations to lower carbon emissions.
Four of the units are coal-fired and the other two use oil. The units are at Santee Cooper’s Jefferies Generating Station in Moncks Corner and Grainger Generating Station at Conway.
The decision marks Santee Cooper’s first unit retirements since the utility began generating electricity 70 years ago.
“As we evaluated the anticipated costs of complying with new regulations and the generation resources we anticipate needing, it became clear that the best action for our customers and the state is to authorize the retirement of these units at Jefferies and Grainger,” said O.L. Thompson, board chairman. “It is not a decision we make lightly. However, it is the most cost-effective move we can make.”
The oldest two units at Jefferies to be retired began operations in 1954; the other two went online in 1970. The four units have a combined capacity of 398 megawatts.
Santee Cooper said the decision does not affect Jefferies Hydroelectric Generating Station.
The units at Grainger came online in 1966 and have a capacity of 170 megawatts.
Santee Cooper is joining other S.C. utilities that have announced plans to shut down fossil-fuel power plants in order to reduce the number of generators that emit sulfur, nitrogen oxide, mercury, carbon dioxide and other noxious chemicals blamed for aggravating asthma and other respiratory illnesses.
Those power plants include:
- Six units at three power stations operated by South Carolina Electric & Gas.
- Three coal-fired units of the W.S. Lee Station in Anderson County operated by Duke Energy.
- The H.B. Robinson coal-fired generator at Hartsville, operated by Duke Energy’s Progress Energy subsidiary.
- A 50-year-old coal-fired generating unit at the Savannah River Site operated by the Department of Energy.
The closures take on increased urgency in light of a new analysis from the Natural Resources Defense Council that shows South Carolina ranked No. 13 for most toxic-air pollution emitted from coal-fired power plants.
Coal- and oil-fired power plants still contribute around 44% of all the toxic-air pollution reported to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory, according to data from the defense council.
Santee Cooper was established in 1934, first generated electricity in 1942 and today has 165,000 direct-serve customers and hundreds of thousands more who receive Santee Cooper electricity through the state’s 20 electric cooperatives.
Santee Cooper said it expects to relocate affected employees to other positions made available through attrition, and so layoffs are not anticipated. There is no timetable yet for the unit retirements, although Grainger’s units were idled in the spring.
“Our priority now will be to evaluate next steps and establish a timetable for retiring the units,” said Lonnie Carter, president and CEO. “I recognize that these will be important decisions potentially impacting many people, and we will be inclusive and transparent as we go forward. These stations are neighbors to thousands of our customers, after all, and we fully intend to remain involved in these communities.”
Grainger has been offline as Santee Cooper continued evaluating potential impacts of the Environmental Protection Agency’s new Mercury and Air Toxics Standard for air emissions, which were issued in December.
The amount of power being taken offline will be made up when Santee Cooper and SCE&G complete the construction of two 1,100-megawatt reactor units at the nuclear power station they operate jointly in Fairfield County.