Report Finds Dominion and Santee Cooper are Falling Short for Customers in South Carolina


Ricky Junquera,

SOUTH CAROLINA -- Dominion South Carolina and Santee Cooper both receive subpar grades, according to the Sierra Club’s 2023 Dirty Truth Report released today. Both utilities are currently presenting draft Integrated Resource Plans (IRP) that include heavy, shared investments in a proposed massive fracked gas plant. The Dirty Truth Report grades each utility individually on their commitment to decarbonization, from the current energy mix to what utilities have presented in their projected future investments (this year’s grades are based on last year’s data and do not include current 2023 draft IRPs). Dominion received a “C”, while Santee Cooper received a “D” grade in this third year of the report tracking the top 77 utility companies nationwide.

The Sierra Club’s annual Dirty Truth Report analyzes the plans of 77 utilities owned by 50 parent companies and assigns scores and grades to the utilities based on three criteria: plans to retire polluting coal plants, whether they plan to build new gas power plants, and the scale of their investment in clean energy through 2030. In an interactive webpage, users can see their utility’s score and what progress–if any–the utility has made toward transitioning to cleaner, more affordable energy.

It is worth noting that the low grades earned by both Dominion and Santee Cooper are based on data compiled before their most recent 2023 filings, and it is likely that if these recent proposals had been included, the grades may have been even lower. While Dominion received a "C"  in this year’s report based on data from their 2022 IRP. In their more recently filed 2023 IRP, Dominion further delays the retirement of the 660MW Williams coal plant and refuses to commit to retiring the 700MW Wateree coal plant, a plan that, if approved by the South Carolina Public Service Commission, would leave massive amounts of coal burning well into the future. At the same time, they are planning to replace the Williams plant with a 1,000-1400 MW shared gas plant with Santee Cooper. Santee Cooper, in its 2023 IRP, plans to delay the retirement of the 1,150MW Winyah coal plant by three years in order to go in on the shared gas plant with Dominion.

“The Winyah coal plant in Georgetown, as well as Dominion’s Williams and Wateree facilities in Berkeley and Richland counties, are all past the average age that coal plants retire,” said Sierra Club organizer Paul Black, a customer of both Dominion and Fairfield Electric Cooperative which is served by Santee Cooper,  “Relying on this aging, fossil infrastructure keeps South Carolinians locked into outdated, expensive and polluting sources of energy. All utilities, but especially Santee Cooper as a state-owned utility, should be doing everything they can to put South Carolina ahead in building an affordable, renewable energy economy. Instead, we see Santee Cooper conspiring with Dominion to build a new, risky gas plant at the cost of South Carolinians.”

The warning signs are in their proposed plans:

  • Both utilities are investing in expensive pollution controls to keep old coal plants online at customer expense while planning massive investments to build a new shared gas plant.
  • Both are underestimating the risks and costs associated with building a new gas plant –including fuel costs, with customers on the hook for 100% of these expenses
  • By limiting their solar fleet and delaying energy storage, both failed to fully take advantage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which would reduce customer costs.

“At a time when inflation is causing more Americans to tighten their budget, Dominion and Santee Cooper continue to support large investments in fossil fuels that continue to increase our electricity bills,” said DeVanny Brown of Columbia, SC, and a Dominion ratepayer. “The Inflation Reduction Act was put in place in part to increase renewable energy that doesn’t have a fluctuating fuel cost. Instead of taking full advantage, our utilities are doubling down on fossil fuels that ultimately cost us more money.” 

Since the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, only 30 utilities featured in the report have filed updated planning documents. If utilities were to fully utilize the incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act, they could save households hundreds of dollars in annual energy costs, create good-paying jobs, and reduce climate pollution for all communities. 

Although clean energy is less expensive than 99 percent of existing coal and new gas generation, only 20 of the 77 utilities covered in this report have plans to be entirely coal-free by 2030. Combined, these 77 utilities are planning to build 53 gigawatts of new gas plants through 2030, nearly 40 percent more than was planned last year. This expansion represents an alarming trend in increased risks and costs for people across the country. In South Carolina, people depend on the Public Service Commission to direct these short-sighted utilities to act in ways that will give the Palmetto State an advantage for years to come.

In November, Santee Cooper customers will have an opportunity to voice their concerns about their projected plan at Santee Cooper’s public hearing. The hearing will occur on Tuesday, November 7, 2023, with a morning session from 10 AM to 12 PM and an evening session from 5:30 PM to 9 PM. Santee Cooper customers, including those served by electric cooperatives, may appear in person or virtually and pre-registration is requested by 4:00 p.m. on Monday, November 6, 2023.

About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit