Santee Cooper celebrates 90 years of serving South Carolinians

April 3, 2024

Ninety years ago this week, South Carolina Governor Ibra Blackwood inked his signature on the bill passed by the Legislature that established the South Carolina Public Service Authority, known today as Santee Cooper, to bring electricity to rural South Carolina. It also provided jobs and economic opportunity in areas that desperately needed hope during the Great Depression.

“We’re proud to have been powering South Carolina for 90 years. That’s quite a milestone. And while Santee Cooper is known for providing reliable and affordable electricity, we do so much more than that,” said Jimmy Staton, President and CEO. “We go beyond the grid by helping bring quality jobs to the state, providing clean drinking water to communities, and donating thousands of hours to volunteer organizations. Now, we’re working on our next 90 years, strategically planning, and investing in future energy needs across the state and other services that power a better South Carolina.”

Today, Santee Cooper is one of the nation’s largest public power utilities and the only large electric utility headquartered in South Carolina. The utility serves more than 2 million people through electric cooperatives, municipal customers, large industrial customers and more than 208,000 residential and business customers in Berkeley, Horry and Georgetown counties. It also provides clean drinking water to more than 200,000 customers through its two water treatment plants. And, in partnership with economic development organizations across the state, Santee Cooper has been instrumental in bringing in more than $22 billion in capital investment and 90,000 jobs to South Carolina over the past 35 years.

Santee Cooper is planning for customer and economic growth in South Carolina by modernizing its energy portfolio while also maintaining strong affordability and reliability. By 2032, the utility plans to add more than 2,100 megawatts (MW) of new solar power, and 1,020 MW of natural gas generation to help provide reliability as it integrates solar power, battery storage and other resources to increase flexibility. The new natural gas generation will also allow Santee Cooper to retire four coal units. Overall, these steps will reduce Santee Cooper’s CO2 emissions by over 50% compared to 2005 levels.

“While we improve grid flexibility, Santee Cooper will also create new customer programs that save customers energy and money, and programs centered around technologies like electric vehicles that are embraced by our customers,” Staton said.

Santee Cooper History

After Governor Blackwood signed the bill to create Santee Cooper, work began to construct two reservoirs (Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie) and a hydroelectric plant to serve rural South Carolina, which in turn sparked prosperity in the Depression-ravaged state.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt supported the Santee-Cooper Project, and it became the largest New Deal program in the Palmetto State. All funds for the $31 million project (five times the state’s 1934 budget) came from federal loans and grants. In 1941, construction on the project accelerated when President Roosevelt named Santee Cooper’s Pinopolis Power Plant (now Jefferies Hydroelectric Station) a national defense project when America joined World War II.

On Feb. 17, 1942, Santee Cooper first generated electricity at Jefferies Hydroelectric Station to support the Allied war effort. Our first customer was defense contractor Pittsburgh Metallurgical Company, which made ferrochromium, a key defense metal used to harden steel for ships and tanks, at its North Charleston plant. The hydro station continues to produce renewable energy today.

Santee Cooper’s emphasis on reliable, affordable electricity has also worked as a powerful economic development tool through the years, helping to attract vital employers such as Nucor Steel Berkeley and Volvo Car USA in Berkeley County.

While Santee Cooper has evolved, its team has never wavered in its mission to be the state’s leading resource for improving the quality of life for all South Carolinians. For more in-depth information and photos, you can read Powering Generations: History of Santee Cooper 1934-2009, watch “Pushing Back the Darkness” on SanteeCooperTV on YouTube, or visit