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Update from Santee Cooper, March 9, 2021

Dear Streetlight Team,

This e-mail serves as a status update on the HOA Outdoor Lighting concerns. Since our last in-person meeting, our Internal Lighting Lead Team has been meeting weekly in an effort to review and address some of the concerns raised by the HOAs regarding Santee Cooper’s outdoor lighting program. We have accomplished the following:

  1. The Internal Lighting Team has performed various analyses responsive to the concerns that have been raised by the HOAs. These efforts are continuing as we are taking a deep dive into all aspects of our lighting program, current and future. Additionally, we have reached out to our neighboring electric utilities to further discuss the industry approach to lease lighting programs and their methodology for pricing, contract terms and general best practices that have been established for them. Our team has made a deliberate effort to investigate potential new options including a Purchase Plan, a Developer Program, and a Maintenance Rate Approach.  At this point, we expect that Purchase Plans likely would be handled on a case-by-case basis, since the number and types of lights and poles in each development may be different and have a variety of installation dates. As envisioned at this point, a Developer Program would have developers pay the cost differential between the premium lighting and the standard lighting option for new subdivisions, and this concept is in its exploratory stage. The Maintenance Rate is still under review, but does not seem feasible based on our current ratemaking methodology. As we have mentioned, Santee Cooper has committed to a rate lock through 2024, which means we cannot change ratemaking methodology at the present time.
  2. Santee Cooper works with a rates consultant, and this independent third party has reviewed our outdoor lighting rates to ensure that the rates Santee Cooper offers are comparable with other utilities and based on industry standard practices.
  3. Our Director of Rates and Pricing is developing a White Paper on Costs of Service Concepts and Rate Design to help lighting customers better understand Santee Cooper’s overall ratemaking principles and specifically those that pertain to outdoor lighting.  We will be sharing this with you soon and posting it on our Outdoor Lighting Webpage for easy access for your members.
  4. We have met with our lighting manufacturers about LED bulb replacement in comparison to fixture replacement and discussed the subject in detail. The lighting manufacturers shared that changing out an HPS or MH bulb to an LED bulb is not as simple as just replacing it. Installing an LED replacement only bulb requires rewiring the fixture and bypassing the ballast tray, which adds to the repair labor time. More importantly, any rewiring of the fixture voids the manufacturer’s warranty.  The lighting manufacturers also informed us that recent studies are indicating that the replacement bulb materials are showing signs of earlier failure in comparison with regular LED bulbs. Consequently, the LED bulb replacement only is not a viable option.
  5. With regard to the July 13, 2015 City of Loris LED Pilot Program article mentioned at the January 14, 2021 HOA Lighting Meeting, there was some misinformation provided that needs to be corrected. The City of Loris was one of several municipalities that participated in Santee Cooper’s LED Pilot Program to test and gain experience with LED technology, which was brand new and just emerging in 2015. The $35,000 referenced in this article was not a savings recognized by the City of Loris, but was the maximum amount of money that could be used towards installing the LED fixtures for the Pilot Program. Just as is currently in place now, the City of Loris was only given the option to convert 50 existing streetlights to LEDs, and they paid the monthly lease payments based on the experimental rate for LEDs.

As stated, our team is fully engaged and working on this effort. We are continuing to explore options, as well as validate our current methods of pricing, maintenance, and lease program contracts. We believe the White Paper on Costs of Service Concepts and Rate Design will be very beneficial to you and others that are engaged with this Outdoor Lighting review effort. Again, we will be getting this White Paper to you soon.

As we continue our due diligence to look at all the various parameters of the Santee Cooper Outdoor Lighting program and options, as soon as we have more information to report, we will be back in touch with you.

Best Regards,

Carlita

Carlita P. Goff, P.E.
Sr. Manager Distribution Design
Santee Cooper
305-A Gardner Lacy Road
Myrtle Beach, SC  29579
(843) 347-3399 Ext. 3808
[email protected]

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