In 2015, South Carolina installed 4 MW of solar electric capacity, ranking it 35th nationally. Installed solar capacity in South Carolina has grown by 303% over the last years. Over the next five years, South Carolina is expected to install 765 MW of solar electric capacity, ranking the state 20th over that time span. This amount is more than 64 times the amount of solar installed over the last five years (source: SEIA.) Wow! These figures are encouraging, and indeed, South Carolina’s energy future is open to a lot of possibilities, with solar energy poised for significant growth. However, this is the case due to the hard work of dedicated persons who have advocated for clean energy and have helped pass favorable policies in the past couple of years. As the State Energy Office is calling for input into their energy plan, this is a critical time to become aware of the issues and help steer the state to a clean energy future (*See Action You Can Take, below, for more information on public input opportunities.)
In a presentation to the Trident CEO Council in the spring of this year, The State of Solar in South Carolina, it summarizes the current situation as “The Traditional Centralized Utility Model is in Transition, Distributive Generation, Efficiency and Demand/Supply Management is Bringing Change.” The report continued to say “Our State was falling behind our peers in North Carolina and Georgia. There was tension between Utilities and Conservation/Solar interests. Leaders emerged who were committed to find common ground.” This led to an increased public awareness of solar energy, consumers paying attention to electrical rates, and ultimately a coalition developing key elements of legislation. In June of 2014, SC passed landmark legislation with the Distributive Energy Resource Program Act. This Act is a significant factor in SC’s transition to solar, as it enabled third-party leasing, addressed net-metering policy by establishing full retail value for electricity that solar generators deliver to the grid through 2025, and led to the development of Distributed Energy Resource (DER) programs, announced in Fall of 2015, resulting in utility incentive programs such as Duke Energy’s $1 per watt rebate and SCE&G’s Performance-based Incentive an Bill Credit Agreement. The DER incentives, along with SC’s state tax credit and the federal tax credit, make an investment in solar very favorable, and are a strong driver in the industry’s current growth.
Another piece of legislation that The South Carolina Clean Energy Business Alliance (SCCEBA) has prioritized n 2015 is a program called Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE.) This program could provide an innovative long-term financing tool for commercial, industrial, agricultural, non-profit, and multifamily dwellings for various energy efficiency and renewable energy building improvements to can lower ownership and operation costs, increase property values and tenant occupancies, and create jobs to boost South Carolina’s economy. On April 14, 2016 the Senate Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee favorably amended and approved S.668 which was introduced in 2015. The bill now goes to the full Senate for debate, so this is a timely issue. Other clean energy initiatives that SCCEBA is working on include a Comprehensive Clean Transportation Plan, Clean Energy Industry Manufacturing, and Clean Energy Access and Community Solar. Learn about these initiatives and voice support for them in the Clean Energy Plan.
Just this week, a coalition, “Stop the Blank Check”, which includes the SC Small Business Chamber (featured in Community Connections ) The League of Women Voters of South Carolina, and the South Carolina Sierra Club, to name a few, was announced. This coalition will oppose requests by SCE&G to increase the cost of constructing its two nuclear plants by $846 million and to raise overall electricity rates by 3.06% to pay for construction financing costs of the plants. The South Carolina Public Service Commission will make the decision about these requests later this year. If you don’t want rate increases to pay for nuclear power plants, check out the coalition and speak to these concerns while you have the opportunity.
While SC’s energy future does look bright, it can’t be assumed that it will stay on a positive trajectory. Policies are critical, and your input into the process can’t be underestimated. What kind energy future do you want, South Carolinians?
Action You Can Take
What kind of energy future do you want? South Carolinians have the important opportunity to address this question, and give their input into the state energy plan that is currently being developed by the SC Energy office.
According to the Energy Office website “This plan provides an evaluation of how SC currently utilizes its available energy resources to promote economic development and to meet the needs of its businesses and residents. It also provides a pathway forward outlining how SC should leverage its energy resources to meet future energy needs during the ensuing 5 year and 10 year intervals.”
Plan on attending one of the remaining public engagement sessions if you can, or complete a public survey online.
July 26, 2016
August 4, 2016
August 9, 2016
Visit www.energy.sc.gov/energyplan for more information and support a clean energy future for the Palmetto State.
* Thanks for the SC Small Business Chamber for this information. originally posted in their blog.