The solar industry is urging South Carolina’s legislature to pass a broad new bill that would reform the state’s energy market, creating jobs, expanding solar deployment and lowering some of the highest home energy bills in the U.S.
“We developed this bill because the energy market in South Carolina needs to be modernized,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “This legislation will lead to lower electric bills for consumers and many new jobs. South Carolinians deserve the economic benefits that an expanded clean energy portfolio will provide the state. We urge the Legislature to pass this bill in the upcoming session.”
If approved, this legislation (Senate Bill 332—sponsored by Senator Tom Davis, R-Beaufort) would:
- Require the Public Service Commission to initiate a new proceeding to review and approve rates and terms provided to large-scale solar facilities, streamlining the process and ensuring contract terms are reasonable for such projects
- Allow large energy consumers, such as industrial manufacturers, to contract directly with a renewable energy supplier to more easily realize savings from solar
- Remove arbitrary caps on home solar projects
- Establish a “Consumer Bill of Rights” to protect energy consumers from discriminatory charges, ensuring that energy rates are fair and transparent
- Establish a neighborhood community solar program designed to expand solar access to low-income customers
“South Carolinians have made it clear that they want more solar energy freedom,” said Matt Moore, chairman of the Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition. “As we look towards our state’s energy future, this legislation enables more independently funded, affordable, clean energy solutions, like rooftop solar, and will protect the thousands of jobs that come with it.”
“More competition in the energy sector drives down energy costs, reduces bills for ratepayers, and creates jobs and investments in South Carolina,” said Steffanie Dohn, director of government relations for the SC Solar Business Alliance. “By passing this legislation, lawmakers can help ratepayers, create jobs and continue to grow our economy – a win-win-win.”
Solar energy use has soared in the state over the past two years as solar generation has become more competitive with traditional resources. South Carolina now has more than 616 MW of solar capacity, making it the 18th biggest solar state. The state added 1,000 solar jobs in 2016, and the industry now employs nearly 2,900 workers. However, solar installations and jobs have slowed in 2018. This bill will make solar more accessible to homes and businesses, spurring its growth.
The new Clean Energy Access Act comes on the heels of a statewide poll conducted by Benchmark Research, a South Carolina polling firm that shows statistically unanimous voter support (95%) for providing utility customers the choice to install solar panels on their homes and businesses to reduce reliance on their utility.
“I am excited to see Republican-led legislation kick off the effort to bring more clean energy to South Carolina,” said Thad Culley, southeast director at Vote Solar. “Families and businesses deserve the right to save money and decide how and from where they get their electricity, and polling shows that voters overwhelmingly agree. This clean energy legislation will give customers that choice while helping families save money and keeping local, good-paying jobs in the state. In South Carolina’s changing energy landscape, the needs of the people and the economy should be front and center.”
Other key findings in the poll, conducted between December 8-11, show that a large majority of voters would support a new law that gives consumers more choices in where they buy power and allow consumers to choose their energy supplier. Nearly three in four voters believe they would be able to find a better deal on their energy bill if utilities had to compete with other suppliers of energy.
More detail about the bill is available at http://www2.seia.org/e/139231/-2019-Energy-Bill-Overview-pdf/2fvm9c/300815276?h=fmY3THQM_LJDQJiltvVbb5MhYiC15vZ2z9PB-cU600A.
News item from SEIA and Vote Solar. Updated on January 9.