NextEra, which touts itself as the world’s largest energy company, is interested in buying South Carolina’s Santee Cooper, the state-owned electric utility being marketed for sale after a bungled nuclear project northwest of Columbia.
Multiple sources have told The State newspaper that NextEra of Florida is the fourth out-of-state utility to express interest in Santee Cooper. The others are Duke Energy of North Carolina, the Southern Co. of Georgia and Dominion Energy of Virginia, sources previously have said.
Brian Symmes, a spokesman for Gov. Henry McMaster, declined to comment Friday, but NextEra spokesman Rob Gould said South Carolina is an attractive state for possible expansion. McMaster is seeking interest from prospective buyers for Santee Cooper.
“"While it is not our policy to comment on market rumors or potential transactions, NextEra Energy regularly evaluates opportunities as they arise around the country,’’ Gould said in an email Friday night. “With that in mind, we view South Carolina as an extremely attractive state in which to potentially invest hundreds of millions of dollars – if not more – in clean energy projects and other activities that could result in significant direct and indirect economic benefits for the state."
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NextEra Energy is the parent company of Florida Power and Light, one of the largest regulated utilities in the country. Florida Power serves 10 million people in the Sunshine State, the company reports. Santee Cooper provides power to 2 million South Carolinians.
NextEra is valued at more than $60 billion and operates in more than 30 states, from Georgia to New York and California. The company and its subsidiaries operate nuclear plants, but also provide solar and wind energy.
NextEra says it is the largest utility company in the world.
Analysts say the company is seeking more expansion opportunities. The company recently had a deal to buy a Texas utility turned down by regulators in that state and “is certainly in the market for something,’’ said Travis Miller, an analyst with Morningstar Inc.
State Sen. Paul Campbell, a former Santee Cooper board member, said NextEra has a good reputation. But he’s still not sure selling state-owned Santee Cooper is a good idea.
“If they come in and take Santee Cooper, we have to make sure it is in the best interests of the state of South Carolina,’’ Campbell said.
While McMaster is marketing Santee Cooper for sale, the Legislature would have to sign off on any deal.
Santee Cooper and its partner, Cayce-based SCANA, walked away from the nuclear reactor expansion project July 31 after spending $9 billion. That sparked McMaster’s efforts to sell Santee Cooper.