The South Carolina General Assembly in the US passed a compromise solar bill on Wednesday, 28 May 2014, that could lay the groundwork for South Carolina to capitalize on the Palmetto State’s significant solar power.
The Southern Environmental Law Center and Coastal Conservation League were among a diverse group including utilities, lawmakers, and solar industry advocates who weighed in on the compromise legislation.
The bill opens the way for residents to lease solar panels without paying high up-front installation costs, enables utilities to get hundreds of megawatts of power from the sun, and includes special programs to bring solar to schools, churches, and other non-profits.
“South Carolinians want the freedom to generate cheap, clean sun power at their homes, churches, businesses, and schools,” said Hamilton Davis, Energy and Climate Director at CCL. “This law can clear the path for us to catch up with other states and strengthen our power grid with more distributed generation.”
The bill will also increase access to “net metering,” a policy that gives South Carolinians fair credit on their utility bills for the solar power they deliver to the grid.
As a first step, the bill requires the S.C. Public Service Commission to hold a proceeding to evaluate the rates set for “net metered” solar. This proceeding will assess the net benefits of solar power, such as its ability to reduce the need for utilities to build expensive traditional power plants and transmission infrastructure.
“This bill recognizes the strong public support for local solar power for energy independence, and once it goes into effect, all eyes will be on the S.C. Public Service Commission to see if the bill’s promise is delivered,” said Blan Holman, in SELC’s Charleston office. “We will continue to work with other solar advocates to ensure that South Carolinians have access to affordable solar power, and that those who choose to invest in solar are treated fairly in light of the myriad benefits they provide to our communities.”