Gullah Geechee Chamber and Leadership Institute endorse sale of Santee Cooper to NextEra Energy

Santee Cooper is Broken, NextEra Can Fix It.

6 mins read

Why We Can’t Wait

In 2018 upon the founding of the Gullah Geechee Chamber of Commerce, we understood economic uplift of our community was inherently connected to addressing climate change, our cultural connection to our natural environment, and embracing career and business opportunities in green, renewable energy.

As gentrification and rising tides push our most vulnerable, mostly low-/fixed income Black population further inland, there is a growing need for a stronger infrastructure, consistent investment in our education system and living wage jobs in rural areas.

It is apparent Santee Cooper simply doesn’t have the culture and financial wherewithal to be part of the solution rather than an albatross upon the citizens of South Carolina.

According to a February 11, 2020 Department of Administration report “Santee Cooper does not have a history of affecting the kinds of changes contemplated by the Reform Plan, so its ability to achieve the benefits of the Reform Plan remain unclear.”

It is history that informs us and in the case of Santee Cooper data does too.

According to the 2019 Equal Opportunity Report filed for South Carolina state agencies, including Santee Cooper, Black males comprised an average of 9.8% of Santee Cooper’s workforce, and Black women 6.74% (average of all EEO categories). Currently, 27.3% of South Carolinians are African American.

Marilyn L. Hemingway, CEO and Founder of the Gullah Geechee Chamber of Commerce.

According to Santee Cooper’s own reports, coal is currently 52% of their total energy mix, and energy from sustainable resources is only 5%. The utility’s new generation plan is to reduce coal to 33% of its energy mix and increase renewable energy to 17%. With coal plants supplying less than 20% of the country’s electricity, and renewable energy supplying roughly 20%, even if Santee Cooper delivers on its current plan, it will be years behind the rest of the country.

As long as Santee Cooper relies on fossil fuels to produce energy, low- and fixed income households will continue to subsidize the electric bills of those who can afford to weatherize their homes.

That’s the dirty secret no one wants to discuss…Because of its debt and reliance on coal generating plants the cost of producing energy is passed onto households that can’t afford to invest in weatherization, maintain their homes and all while polluting the environment in majority Black communities.

In the meantime, we can’t wait while Black women earn $.61 for every $1 of their white male counterparts.

We can’t wait while on average, it takes wages of $17.27 per hour to rent a two-bedroom apartment in our state.

We can’t wait while single mothers or elders on fixed incomes must decide to place food on the table, or buy a prescription or keep the lights on.

We can’t wait small business creation and growth is deferred due to burdensome energy costs.

Yet in spite of the hills we face, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Black women were the fastest growing segment of entrepreneurs.

Community advocates continue to push for quality, affordable housing, accountability in education, and innovation in career and business opportunities.

The work is being done. Yet to reach the next level, we need a stakeholder with a history of innovation, a deliberate and intentional approach to diversity and inclusion and a proven record of career and business opportunities in green, renewable energy.

We believe that company is NextEra Energy.

NextEra Energy is the world’s largest producer of wind and solar energy.

NextEra’s utility, Florida Power & Light, boasts rates 30% lower than the national average, and lower than Santee Cooper’s rates.

Santee Cooper’s $6+ Billion debt will be erased by NextEra. Customers won’t be forced to bear the burden of Santee Cooper’s mismanagement.

NextEra has been recognized as of America’s best employers for diversity. In 2019, the company awarded $640 million in contracts to minority, and disadvantaged females and veteran owned businesses.

As reported in GreenTechMedia, “Renewable energy resources are expected to deliver 70 percent of the new generation capacity built this year, according to a new analysis from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.”

South Carolina can’t afford to be left behind as a new table is being built. Our endorsement of NextEra Energy is clear. And in the beautiful words of Amanda Gormand, our nation’s first youth Poet Laureate and youngest Presidential Inauguration poet,

When day comes we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraidIt’s our time to pivot into a green, renewable energy future. We can’t wait. Please call your state Senator and Representative. It’s time.

Marilyn L. Hemingway, is the CEO and Founder of the Gullah Geechee Chamber of Commerce. She is the 2020 recipient of the 2020 Green Tie Award Community Advocate Award of the Conservation Voters of South Carolina. She is a certified Social Impact Entrepreneur Consultant, College of Charleston. Marilyn is a graduate of the University of South Carolina with a degree in Journalism.

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