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.
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
Click here to find your senator or representative and express your support for S.1189.
A key part of this legislation is enabling utilities to offer solar programs targeted at increased rooftop solar investments by customers. This provision has been criticized by a solar group from California, The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC).
TASC has interpreted these provisions to represent unfair competition to their solar leasing business model. To the contrary, conservation and private solar interests in South Carolina believe a healthy solar market in our state includes a variety of investment options for residents and businesses, and utility solar programs represent just one option among many that will result from this legislation.