Greenwood’s 25 Beats Duke Energy

Just after the Charleston SC Post and Courier wrote about the drive-ins of South Carolina, the Greenwood SC Index-Journal reported a financial victory for one of those three, the Auto 25 Drive In there in Greenwood.

The 25 Auto Drive-In in Greenwood SC.
2014 photo by herdintheupstate, via CinemaTreasures.

That drive-in opened in 1945, and its electricity provider used to be the Greenwood County Electric Power Commission. In 1966, South Carolina lawmakers allowed Duke Power to buy that provider, but with the condition that its then-existing customers would have their electric rates locked in forever.

Fast-forward to 2009. When Tommy and Carolyn McCutcheon purchased and reopened the 25, it still enjoyed that same old wonderfully low rate on its electric bill. In the spring of 2015, some power outages led to Duke Energy (Duke Power’s successor) insisting on a service upgrade that would negate that old price break. The McCutcheons hired an electrician who said that Duke’s neglect of its equipment was responsible for the problems.

It’s a long story with a fair amount of drama, but I’ll jump to the spoiler for you. In 2017, state regulators ruled that Duke had acted improperly and restored the old rate. Duke appealed that decision to the courts, repeatedly, losing every time. (Utility companies, amiright?) Finally last week, the South Carolina Supreme Court reaffirmed all of the lower courts’ rulings, and Duke announced it would stop fighting this particular case.

“I spent a lot of money fighting them,” Tommy McCutcheon said. “More than I’ll ever recoup, probably.” But he told the Index-Journal that he was glad to be able to turn his attention back to running the drive-in. For many more details on this battle with a happy ending, you really should go read it!