The solar industry has been focused on South Carolina in 2019, and those efforts might now be paying off. The South Carolina House of Representatives unanimously passed The Energy Freedom Act, on a bipartisan vote last week, which would modernize the state’s energy market, enabling all energy sources to compete on fair terms, and provide customers more choice over their energy. This will help South Carolina consumers lower what are currently some of the highest home energy bills in the U.S., expand solar deployment, and protect and grow the state’s solar workforce by creating thousands of new jobs.
“The South Carolina House has shown tremendous leadership in passing this much-needed legislation to lower consumers’ electric bills and create new local jobs,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “Now, it’s up to the Senate to quickly follow suit before the state’s burgeoning solar market gets stalled because of unnecessary red tape.”
In South Carolina, rooftop solar caps are expected to be hit across the state in mid-March and utility-scale solar projects continue to have issues getting connected to the grid. This compromise legislation was developed with significant input from local solar companies, utilities, nonprofits and business stakeholders from all parts of the state.
“We are running out of time. The arbitrary cap on solar energy in South Carolina is rapidly approaching and could severely damage the state’s free market energy economy,” said Matt Moore, Chairman of the Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition and former Chair of the South Carolina Republican Party. “This legislation passed the House with near unanimous support and we need the momentum to continue building in the Senate. Thousands of solar jobs and individual energy freedom are at stake.”
“The South Carolina Solar Business Alliance (SCSBA) is pleased that this compromise legislation has cleared its first hurdles and is on its way to the Senate,” said Steffanie Dohn, SCSBA’s Director of Legislative Affairs. “This legislation is a product of weeks of give and take by utilities, the solar industry, legislators and multiple clean energy advocates. In the spirit of compromise, all stakeholders were able to put South Carolinians first by giving them the freedom to choose how they get their energy, lower costs and open up economic opportunities for businesses and residents throughout the state.”
If approved, this legislation 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 negotiate directly with a renewable energy supplier to more easily realize savings from solar;
• Eliminate the net metering caps and extend the existing residential solar rates for two years until the Public Service Commission determines a successor program;
• Provide for more transparency and competition in long-term utility generation planning; and
• Establish a neighborhood community solar program designed to expand solar access to low-income customers.
— Solar Builder magazine