Gas power plant welcome in Fairfield

FAIRFIELD COUNTY – The new natural gas-fired power plant proposed for Fairfield County would be a welcome investment, said County Administrator Jason Taylor.

“We would love to see them build a gas-fired power plant in Fairfield County,” he said. “We will negotiate an incentive package and those kinds of things to encourage them to go ahead and do that.”

The plant, slated to come online at the end of 2023, is part of plans by NextEra Energy if the Florida-based energy company buys Santee Cooper, according to a report NextEra filed with its bid to purchase the South Carolina utility.

“We view South Carolina as also confirmed that the plan is to build the new plant in Fairfield.

According to the NextEra report, “The total capital investment will be approximately $1.3 billion, which includes equipment, construction, land, pipeline and transmission system integration costs.”

“[NextEra has] already made significant progress in the initial phases of project development, including developing plans for plant siting, transmission interconnection, pipeline interconnection, fuel supply, and property tax agreements,” according to the report.

“The gas for the new plant will come from the Transco pipeline via a newly constructed pipeline lateral.”

Santee Cooper, partner with fellow South Carolina utility SCE&G in the failed project to build two new nuclear reactors at V.C. Summer, is deeply in debt and targeted for reform. Three options under consideration are reform implemented within the state agency; management by Virginia-based Dominion Energy, which bought SCE&G’s parent company, SCANA; or purchase by NextEra.

Among the items included in NextEra’s proposal are payoff of Santee Cooper’s $7.9 billion debt, an effective reduction of electric rates, $941 million in customer refunds; and payment of an estimated $3.3 billion in taxes over 30 years. It also includes a $2.3 billion investment in new generation over the next five years, including 1,250 megawatts of gas-fired generation.

The natural gas combined cycle plant planned for in Fairfield County is expected to create up to 30 permanent jobs and hundreds of construction jobs, and of course add to the county’s tax base, according to NextEra.

The company’s plan also includes 800 megawatts of solar generation and 50 megawatts of battery storage, with potential sites in South Carolina but not Fairfield, and the retirement of an aging coal-fired power plant elsewhere in the state.

State legislators, meanwhile, are discussing the issue of the company’s tax status in the event that it buys Santee Cooper – and whether it would receive tax advantages normally afforded to state-owned utilities.

Taylor said that while the proposed gas-fired power plant would not come close to filling the hole in anticipated tax revenue left by the abandonment of the nuclear project, the project would nonetheless be a help to the county.

“We welcome it,” he said. “We are anxious for them to invest – as we are with most companies – and we think this would be a good investment in Fairfield County.”