A group representing 20 independent power producers in South Carolina unveiled a plan to diversify its generation supply, rather than rely on a natural-gas fired plant proposed by public utility company Santee Cooper.

The plan from Central Electric Power Cooperative includes purchasing power from existing and new power plants within and outside South Carolina, pursuing utility-scale battery storage projects and implementing voluntary customer programs to limit peak power needs.

The group’s plan surprised some, who thought the group might choose to meet future power needs with a single plant. But Central said its members increasingly want supplier and fuel diversity in the group’s power supply portfolio, something that could mitigate risk in a changing utility landscape.

Earlier in 2022, Central used a contractual option to choose to not participate in the natural gas-fired plant proposed at the Winyah Generating Station near Georgetown. Co-op CEO Rob Hochstetler told The Post and Courier that Central declined to participate because of “a significant pipeline risk” and that the plan “does not provide cooperative members with the power flexibility we need.”

Santee Cooper plans to close a coal-fired plant at Winyah by 2029. When it closes, the jointly operated Central-Santee Cooper system will lose 1,150 MW of electric generation capacity.

“I think there were several members of the staff and certainly a number of our board members who were surprised, but we went where our requirements and the opportunities took us,” said Hochstetler in a release Oct. 19. “The solution had to be affordable, the power supply had to be reliable, and we needed to be ready by 2029.”

Central receives roughly 70% of its power supply from Santee Cooper. Even with a reduced reliance on Santee Cooper, Central expects to receive more than half of its wholesale power supply from the utility.

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