In her Aug. 6 column on the nuclear-reactor debacle, “This is what has to change after the nuclear meltdown,” Cindi Scoppe touches on the idea of monopolies; she writes: “I doubt we’ve reached the point where small carbon-based or alternative-energy plants can provide everyone in the state access to electricity, which we’d need before we could switch to a free-market system. But a lot of people believe that time is coming.”
Count me as one of those people, without any of the doubt. An electrical grid is a natural monopoly and as such needs regulation; power generation, on the other hand, is not and does not. Yet here in South Carolina we have political fingerprints all over the power-generation industry, from state ownership of Santee Cooper to the Legislature’s socialization of SCE&G’s investment risk. The consequence of such political influence is now clear.
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Minor reforms around the edges — which is generally all that the handful of legislators in charge will allow — isn’t going to cut it this time; we must now do nothing short of bringing market forces to our energy sector and taking as much power as possible out of the control of politicians and their special-interest supporters.
Repeal of the Base Load Review Act is a good start, but we must go further; we must also question the desirability of a state-owned utility and consider whether privatizing Santee Cooper would be in the people’s best interests. Previous efforts to privatize Santee Cooper have been blocked by legislative leaders who want to maintain their control. When Gov. Mark Sanford confronted this sacred cow in 2005, senior legislators responded by ramming through a bill that stripped his power to remove Santee Cooper board members. It’s past time to renew that fight.
Sen. Tom Davis