Utilities and Solar Advocates Reach Net Metering Settlement

Utilities, solar businesses, and conservation groups reached a settlement agreement last week on how rooftop solar will be treated for the foreseeable future in South Carolina. The settlement agreement is a critical step forward in implementing South Carolina’s recently adopted landmark solar legislation, Act 236, which laid the groundwork for residents, utilities, schools, churches and other nonprofits to begin to capitalize on the state’s significant solar potential.

Under the settlement, residential and commercial utility customers that install solar panels on their rooftops before 2021 will receive full retail credit for any excess power that flows back onto the electric grid and will be eligible to remain on this rate until December 31, 2025 without any solar-specific charges or fees. Additional solar programs and incentives designed to spur investments in residential and commercial solar will be filed by utilities with the PSC within 60 days of settlement approval.

The settlement also establishes a methodology for valuing solar power for purposes of utility recovery of lost revenues, if any, which will be recoverable by the utilities through distributed energy resource programs that were authorized by Act 236. In 2020, the PSC will reevaluate the solar policies included in the settlement and will consider any appropriate changes at that time.

News coverage of the settlement

“Today’s settlement represents a win for solar in South Carolina and is a testament to the consensus-based approach that continues to prove effective in advancing solar energy in the Palmetto State,” said Hamilton Davis, of the Coastal Conservation League in Charleston.

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“SCE&G has worked in the spirit of collaboration from the beginning with other stakeholders last year to pass the landmark S.C. Distributed Energy Resource Act. In that same way, we recognize that all parties represent different points of view, but we’ve come together to compromise and support the net metering settlement agreement, which allows us to move forward and advance solar for all in South Carolina,” said John Raftery, general manager, renewable products and services and energy demand management at SCANA Corp.

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“Cooperation was a key element when South Carolina passed solar legislation in June. Many of those same groups participating in that process have ironed out an agreement that will enable solar development in the state,” said Clark Gillespy, Duke Energy president — South Carolina. “Our customers will participate in the growth of solar through the various incentives described in the settlement. We believe this is a positive step for South Carolina — and the future of solar energy in our state.”

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Landmark Solar Legislation Signed by Governor Haley

On August 6th, Governor Nikki Haley and Senator Greg Gregory led a signing ceremony celebrating South Carolina’s new solar legislation. This was a monumental step forward for clean energy in the Palmetto State.

As reported by The State newspaper:

“What we had were a lot of barriers — barriers that stood in our way when it came to solar energy,” Haley told more than 50 environmentalists, utility representatives and solar energy company executives.

Haley said expanding solar power in South Carolina will help diversify the mix of energy sources, while helping the Palmetto State catch up with North Carolina and Georgia in efforts to encourage sun-fired power.

“When you look at North Carolina and you look at Georgia, they’ve been doing pretty well when it comes to solar energy — and they don’t have any more sun than we do,” the governor said during the event at Half Moon Outfitters, which installed a “solar tree” several years ago to help power the business.

Solar Legislation Signing Ceremony (Video)

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Clean Power Plan (111d) and South Carolina

June 2nd, 2014 should prove to be a historic day for clean energy in South Carolina. As Governor Haley signed into law landmark solar legislation (S.1189), the EPA released new rules to address carbon pollution from existing power plants.

Click here for an overview of S.1189.

Instead of cookie-cutter requirements for every power plant in the country, the standards allow discretion at the state and utility system level to reduce carbon with clean energy alternatives like efficiency upgrades and solar power.  South Carolina is well positioned to meet its targets in a cost-effective and timely manner.

Click here for an overview and additional resources related to the new carbon pollution rule.

As noted by Blan Holman of the Southern Environmental Law Center, “Job creators like Boeing, BMW and Google seek the clean energy we are building in South Carolina. Some doomsayers resist improvements that protect human health, but time and time again, they are proved wrong as prosperity grows along with clean energy innovation.”

More here

Increasing energy efficiency investments, which should be a key component of South Carolina’s compliance strategy for this rule, could actually result in lower bills for utility customers. Additionally, the cost of solar has decreased precipitously, and utility scale solar is now competitive with traditional generation options like coal and natural gas. Having solar offset the need to import and burn coal and natural gas is a win-win for our economy and environment.

Along with already-planned coal retirements and capacity replacements with natural gas and other sources, South Carolina is on track to reduce its power sector carbon emissions quickly and economically.

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Sunrise in South Carolina

Sunrise is breaking in South Carolina for solar power. A comprehensive piece of solar legislation took a significant step forward this week as the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 19-1 in support of  S.1189. The full senate will now be considering the bill.

A broad group of stakeholders representing conservation interests, in-state solar businesses, electric utilities and electric cooperatives came together over the past few months to break the clean energy gridlock in South Carolina and develop this consensus piece of solar legislation.

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What does S.1189 do?

First, the bill continues “net metering” in South Carolina.  Net metering allows consumers to sell power from their solar panels back to the grid.

Second, the bill enables new distributed renewable energy programs by utilities that, by 2021, must result in 2% of installed peak capacity from distributed resources like solar.

  • 1% must be from residential and commercial scale distributed systems (below 1MW)
  • 1% must come from larger (up to 10MW) facilities.
  • Hard cost caps limit program size and ratepayer impact
  • Programs must facilitate solar for tax-exempt entities like churches and schools

Third, after the Public Service Commission (PSC) approves these distributed renewable energy programs, the PSC will adopt new net metering rates capturing the benefits and costs of distributed solar.  With the new net metering rates:

  • Cap for individual commercial net metered facilities will rise from 100 kW to 1 MW
  • The cap for aggregated net metered installations will rise from 0.2% to 2%
  • Existing NEM customers will be grandfathered at current rates until Dec. 31, 2020

Fourth, once new net metering rates are in effect, the bill allows for solar leasing.  Homeowners and businesses will be able to lower their power bills by leasing solar systems, without paying large up-front capital costs.

  • Solar leasing will be capped at 2% of a utility’s peak demand
  • Bill allows for leasing and net metering by customer; does not allow for direct 3rd party sales of electricity

1 page overview of S.1189

“Time to unleash SC’s solar power potential” 

S.1189 (Changed from S.536 for procedural reasons)

Click here to find your senator or representative and express your support for S.1189.

 

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Solar Energy & South Carolina: Myths, Facts, and Answers

How does South Carolina compare to neighboring states?

South Carolina has fallen far behind neighboring states in the region when it comes to installed and planned solar capacity. North Carolina has installed 51 times more solar (388 megawatts) than South Carolina, and the Georgia Public Service Commission has approved almost 30 times more solar (785 megawatts) than is currently planned in our state.

Click here for an FAQ on solar in South Carolina

MYTH: Solar requires utilities to build back-up generation

FACT: The utility system as it exists today can accommodate a large amount of new solar, as evidenced by the North Carolina experience and requirements for new solar ordered by the Georgia Public Service Commission. The lower levels of solar penetration that South Carolina could expect to deploy over the next decade would not require utilities to build back-up generation.

Click here for more Myths & Facts on solar

Contact your SC Representative and Senator today and ask them to support passage of solar legislation in 2014!

Click here to find your representatives.

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Submit your comments on the Clean Power Plan today!

The EPA will be accepting public comments on the proposed Clean Power Plan (CPP) until December 1st. This rule is focused on reducing carbon pollution from existing coal plants and provides unprecedented flexibility for state compliance in an individualized and cost-effective manner.

Increased investment in local South Carolina resources like solar and energy efficiency means more than just cleaner air; it means a stronger economy and increased consumer choice when it comes to powering our state.

Let the EPA know that a balanced plan for South Carolina should result in:

  • A substantive role for our state’s vast renewable energy resources like solar and wind in reducing carbon pollution;
  • Significantly increased energy efficiency opportunities for homeowners and businesses that can serve to reduce electricity bills; and
  • Assurance that the contribution of consumer-side resources like solar and energy efficiency are not undermined by utility-owned energy sources like nuclear and natural gas.

Please take a moment to submit your comments to the EPA and ask them to ensure that the Clean Power Plan results in a balanced approach to creating a clean energy future for South Carolina.

Click here to submit your comments online.

Or email your comments to A-and-R-Docket@epa.gov with the subject line ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2013-0602.

For more information on the Clean Power Plan and what it means for South Carolina, click here.

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This Week’s News, June 12th

With recent changes to the policies governing solar energy in South Carolina, investments in this clean energy technology are expected to grow.

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South Carolina’s offshore wind potential also received recognition from the legislature this year. A resolution was adopted touting the state’s large offshore wind resource and the economic opportunities it represents.

Read More Here and Here

What will it cost to address carbon pollution in the US? The Rocky Mountain Institute puts even the most exaggerated predictions in perspective.

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Energy Efficiency Spotlight 

The term “death spiral” is trending in the utility world as fears of profits losses proliferate in the face of increased rooftop solar deployment and advancements in energy efficiency technologies. But a new report from ACEEE argues these fears are misplaced and the coming changes manageable.

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Climate Change News

New rules to limit carbon pollution from existing coal plants have received a lot of attention over the past week. Although some interest groups have criticized the limits as being overly restrictive, the reality is that this rule creates flexibility for state’s to clean up their power supply in ways that benefit public health and the economy.

Read More Here and Here

 

 

 

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This Week’s News, May 20th

We’ve reached the final leg of the solar race in South Carolina. Last week, S.1189 moved out of a key House committee with unanimous and bipartisan support. The legislation will now be taken up on the floor of South Carolina House this week.

Click here to find your representative and express your support for S.1189.

For media coverage on last week’s vote, click here

For a full overview of S.1189, click here

A number of conservation groups have requested that the SC Public Service Commission reconsider a recent decision that would allow Duke Energy to construct a new natural gas plant in the upstate without fully evaluating the economic and environmental mitigation options available to the company. The groups maintain that integrating a solar energy element to compliment operations of the gas plant would reduce costs for customers while also reducing environmental impacts.

The formal request for reconsideration filed with the SC Public Service Commission can be found here.

As evidence by three solar projects that have just been announced in Georgia, large-scale solar is now outcompeting traditional fossil fuel alternatives on cost.

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Energy Efficiency Spotlight

Thinking about making energy efficiency home improvements to save money this summer? You better act fast if you want to take advantage of up to $2,500 in rebates that SCE&G is offering their customers for a limited time. The program will be officially canceled on July 31st of this year.

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Climate Change News 

Watch US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse speak on the Senate floor about his recent trip to South Carolina and the Southeast to learn about climate change challenges in the region.

Watch Here

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This Week’s News, April 23rd

As coastal communities like Folly Beach battle against rising seas and a U.S. Senator from another state tours the southeast to learn more about the impact of climate change on our region, South Carolina elected officials continue to do the bidding of the American Petroleum Institute and its members.

Folly renourishment project provides short-lived relief.

U.S. Senator Whitehouse visits Charleston on his tour of the southeastern coast.

Ignoring an abundance of in-state clean energy resources like solar, offshore wind, and energy efficiency, Senator Scott, Representative Duncan, and Governor Haley have instead committed to gambling with South Carolina’s coastal economy and environment.

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Learn more about offshore drilling and SC 

A solid approach to integrated resource planning is a key component of keeping electricity rates low for utility customers, and deficiencies in planning methodologies can lead to poor investment decisions and lost opportunities for utilities and their customers. The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) takes a closer look at whether Duke Energy is making the right choices when it comes to the future of their coal fleet.

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Georgia has become the poster-child for how updated energy policies can drive economic development. Our neighbor has enjoyed the nation’s highest jump in solar jobs (225%) over the past year. Today Georgia has 146 companies and over 2,000 employees in the solar sector.

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The decreasing cost of solar combined with advances in battery technology will soon make the electric grid optional for many U.S. utility customers. A recent report from the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) suggests that the changing economics of electricity markets, spurred on in part by advances in customer owned energy generation, will eventually make the current utility business model obsolete.

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Energy Efficiency Spotlight

A law that would have eliminated energy efficiency standards for state owned buildings in South Carolina has been amended to keep these requirements in place. A compromise was reached between manufacturing interests, conservation groups, and green builders that ensures new state buildings will continue to reflect industry best practices for efficiency in water and energy usage.

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Here’s a short overview on what energy efficiency improvements for buildings can mean for reducing our nation’s energy demand.

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Climate Change News 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released their 5th report on the current state of climate science. A comprehensive overview of climate related impacts, adaptation and mitigations options, and vulnerability assessments can be found on the official IPCC website.

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Is it time for Americans to start thinking like the Dutch when it comes to water management?

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This Week’s News, March 13th

The solar industry had a banner year in 2013 growing its U.S. market by 41%.

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Both of South Carolina’s neighboring states, Georgia (#7) and North Carolina (#3), now find themselves ranked in the top ten states nationally for installed solar.

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The ongoing coal ash controversy in North Carolina is additional motivation for South Carolina to feel some urgency in charting its clean energy future. Although our state is ahead of the curve in addressing coal ash problems, we have fallen behind the curve in allowing clean energy resources like solar to be successful.

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The operator of our nation’s largest electric grid, PJM Interconnection, has concluded that up to 30% of its power could come from solar and wind without posing any significant challenges to grid operations. In addition, a study prepared for PJM estimates that this level of renewable capacity would lower average energy prices for customers, significantly reduce carbon emissions, and necessitate only a small amount of additional power to balance renewable intermittency.

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The Obama Administration took another step towards oil and gas development off the South Carolina coast with last week’s release of a final draft for rules pertaining to exploration activities. Despite substantial public opposition and a litany of negative environmental impacts to wildlife, the Administration appears poised to move forward.

Read More Here and Here

The International Energy Agency estimates that energy efficiency gains since 1974 are responsible for offsetting the equivalent of two-thirds of our current energy demand each year. That’s nearly equal to the world’s combined annual output of oil, gas, and coal.

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The National Academy of Sciences has released a new publication on the science of climate change. Climate Change: Evidence & Causes was designed for readability and access by general audiences and includes an up-to-date overview of what the best science is telling us about our changing climate.

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This Week’s News, February 11th

The City of Charleston has passed a resolution urging the South Carolina Legislature to enact policies that advance solar and other renewable energy resources. The resolution specifically mentions the current solar leasing legislation (S.536/H.3425) now before the senate and house.

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The state legislature took one step forward and one step back on solar energy last week as the Senate Finance Committee passed improved incentives for commercial solar installations while placing an expiration date on current residential solar incentives. The SC Public Service Commission also heard proposals on how Duke Energy could save their customers money by incorporating solar into plans for a new natural gas plant.

Read More Here and Here

At the urging of conservation groups, South Carolina utilities have begun cleaning up coal ash storage facilities around the state. Recent news out of North Carolina involving a major coal ash spill at a Duke Energy site reinforces the importance of addressing these ticking time bombs.

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As the amount of nuclear waste stored in South Carolina continues to increase, plans for long-term storage have failed to materialize.

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As the southeast prepares to get slammed with another blast of winter weather, it isn’t unusual to hear confused statements about the role climate change plays in these events. Thankfully, we have people like local weatherman Jim Gandy to explain the difference between weather and climate.

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