SCANA’s financial problems are a result of mismanagement, which is an expected outcome of decades of operation as a monopoly, free from competition or effective regulation.
The profitability of a regulated monopoly does not come from efficiency or hard work. It comes from the ability to outmaneuver regulators and control the politicians who pretend to control the system.
The root problem with our state’s energy market lies in the fact that the utilities control the ability to both generate the energy and distribute it. The control of the grid makes customers captives: There is only one provider, and they must pay the price.
Some argue that this system developed out of necessity and the customer can rely on our legislators to regulate the monopolies. That illusion was shattered by the events in Fairfield County and the newest corruption scandals in the State House.
While our “leaders” are focused on which energy monopoly should gain control of SCE&G, we have a golden opportunity to redesign our energy system. We should take over the SCE&G grid system and turn it over to a quasi-governmental entity. The customers would then pay a set rate for the grid connection and be able to choose their power provider.
This is not a new concept.Residents of Houston can now choose their energy provider. ERCOT manages the grid and provides a free market where the generators compete. Indeed, nearly 70 percent of U.S. electricity is generated and consumed in regions operated by wholesale markets. These grid operators are called Independent Service Operators, or Regional Transmission Organizations if they span state lines.
ISO’s/RTO’s are conspicuously absent from South Carolina and the rest of the Southeast. That is a result of the political power of the energy monopolies. The potential financial collapse of SCANA presents us with a rare opportunity to revamp our system, allow free enterprise to drive our energy market and allow our citizens the freedom to make choices in that market.
Our leaders need to take action to make it happen and ignore the calls to allow one energy monopoly to eat another and leave us in the same mess. But then, we all know who is really in charge don’t we?
The State publishes a cross section of the letters we receive from South Carolinians in order to provide a forum for our community and also to allow our community to get a good look at itself, for good or bad. The letters represent the views of the letter writers, not necessarily of The State.