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.

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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.

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.


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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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Sen. Gregory (R-Lancaster) Introduces S.536 – solar leasing!

A bipartisan contingency of South Carolina Senators has introduced legislation (S.536) that would make third party energy sales and solar leasing legal in the state.  Solar leasing has become the preferred method of installing solar arrays on homes, businesses and institutions in many areas of the country, and this financing model is projected to grow the residential solar market from $1.3 billion in 2012 to $5.7 billion by 2016.
Read more about the senate bill here

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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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This Week’s news, January 16th 2014

Hey South Carolina, it’s time to get serious about solar. That’s a primary theme running through a new report on solar energy by the state’s Energy Advisory Council (EAC).  As the country and neighboring states have forged ahead on deploying significant amounts of solar while enabling homeowners, businesses, schools, and churches to take advantage of this clean energy technology, South Carolina has been at a virtual standstill.

That’s expected to change in 2014. Solar leasing legislation (S.536/H.3425) in the senate and house has enjoyed broad bipartisan support but drawn the ire of our state’s utilities, and alternative legislation on solar could result from the recent EAC report. One thing is certain: elected officials will have to act if solar is to succeed in South Carolina.

As noted in the EAC report, “How state policymakers structure the legal, regulatory, and economic environment will be critical in setting the stage for successful development and promotion of distributed generation in South Carolina.”

So, take a moment and let your representative and senator know that you expect solar legislation to pass in 2014.

Click Here to find your elected officials

Click Here to get the EAC report on solar

How does South Carolina compare to neighboring states when it comes to solar? Do utilities have to build back up generation when their customers invest in solar? How can we rely on solar when the sun isn’t always shining?

Click Here for the myths and facts related to solar in South Carolina

Much of the discussion surrounding solar energy is focused on the economics. Utility customers are looking for ways to reduce their electricity bills and solar has become a popular solution. But there’s also an overarching environmental component to the clean energy debate that can be witnessed first hand along the South Carolina coast: climate change.

The Lowcountry is ground zero for many of the changes we are experiencing today and many of the challenges we can expect in the decades ahead. A recent article from a leading online resource for climate research and reporting has outlined how Charleston and South Carolina are already feeling the effects of a changing climate and what we are (or aren’t) doing to prepare for a very different future.

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This Week’s News, January 9th, 2013

The SC Public Service Commission (PSC) was recently presented with compelling information on economic development opportunities related to solar, offshore wind, and energy efficiency. Experts in these various fields covered the clean energy resources available in South Carolina and the positive economic impact more investment in these areas would have for the state. The PSC regulates SCE&G, Duke Energy and Duke Energy Progress.

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Watch the presentations and the Q&A with the PSC

Want to learn more about the PSC or even consider running for a commission seat in in 2014? Then take a look at uPowerSC.

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Cities and states along the east coast are vying to become hubs for wind manufacturing. Do cities like Charleston and states like South Carolina have what takes to compete in this market?

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If South Carolina elected officials could take action to erode monopolies, promote self-reliance, defend property rights, create jobs, and support our state’s global competitiveness, wouldn’t you expect them to?

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Energy Efficiency Spotlight

Rolling blackouts due to extreme cold weather disrupted service for thousands of SCE&G residents this week. The company’s prescription for avoiding future blackouts? Energy efficiency.

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Take a look at how South Carolina’s utilities stack up against each other and leading utilities when it comes to energy efficiency.

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Climate Change News

President Obama’s rhetoric on climate change has been aggressive, but his actions tell a different story as fossil fuel production skyrockets.

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Remember what the tobacco industry and some politicians were saying not long ago about the “uncertainty” surrounding nicotine addiction and the health impacts of cigarettes? Fast-forward two decades and substitute “climate change” for “tobacco.”

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Wind Association Debunks Myths

Myths about clean energy incentives and the reliability of resources like wind are debunked by AWEA.
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New Study: Grid Remains Stable With Significant Renewables

A new study commissioned by the Civil Society Institute demonstrates how significantly higher levels of renewable energy penetration are consistent with maintaining a reliable grid.
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Measuring The Value Of Energy Efficiency

Residential energy use disclosure policies are proving to be an effective way of introducing energy efficiency valuation into the marketplace.
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Antiquated Electric Utility Model Under Pressure

As distributed energy technologies like solar continue to proliferate, how will utilities transition to a new business model? Here is an excellent assessment of the challenges and opportunities that currently face the electricity sector.
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