Santee Cooper is closing some of its last retail offices in the next few months as part of a cost-cutting measure brought on by the failure of its massive nuclear project.
The Moncks Corner-based power provider said Monday it’s shuttering three offices along the Grand Strand – in Conway, Garden City and North Myrtle Beach. They’ll be closed by the end of June.
The offices had fielded customer questions and taken payments from Santee Cooper’s retail customers, who number about 170,000 from Berkeley County to the Grand Strand.
Santee Cooper will accept payments at Western Union locations and several banks instead, and it will keep one office in Myrtle Beach. The company is also launching a mobile app to accept payments electronically.
The branch closures are expected to save the utility about $1 million a year, making a dent in its effort to cut $120 million in expenses over the next three years. The state-owned utility is reducing spending to avoid an electric rate increase while a wave of debt comes due.
Santee Cooper says foot traffic at the three offices was also declining, and they account for less than a fifth of the total payments it receives from the customers it serves directly.
Santee Cooper is under pressure to keep its rates and expenses low after it walked away from a years-long effort to build a pair of nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station north of Columbia.
The failure of the $9 billion project has spurred a wave of backlash from lawmakers and customers who saw their bills increase five times because of the reactors, which Santee Cooper was building with SCANA Corp.'s South Carolina Electric & Gas subsidiary. It also fueled the first serious effort to sell Santee Cooper in more than a decade.