As a South Carolinian I’m not afraid to admit that my state is behind the curve when it comes to solar power. In fact, The Interstate Renewable Energy Council rated South Carolina along with only four other states with D and F grades for progress on the use of renewable energy. But my state is about to open its eyes to solar power thanks to a new piece of legislation that just passed the South Carolina House of Representatives with a vote of 105-0. The final version will soon hit Gov. Nikki Haley’s desk for a signature.
“This is truly a big deal, a giant step in moving South Carolina forward in renewable energy,’’ state Rep. Robert Brown, D-Charleston, said.
The solar power bill has the support of both the utilities and conservation groups after two years of heated negotiations. South Carolina currently depends almost entirely on coal, nuclear power, and natural gas. This new legislation pushes utility companies to increase the use of solar power. By 2021, utilities must get 2 percent of power from the sun, which puts the state in line with other southern states.
Currently, there are only about 7 megawatts of solar power installed in the state, but this new law could increase that number to 300 megawatts. The bill also allows third party leasing, which lowers the cost of solar panel installation for both people and businesses.
Lawmakers are still deciding how utility companies will credit both people and businesses for installing solar panels without cutting into utility power profit.
According to The State, “The legislation also sharply raises one of the nation’s most restrictive caps on the use of solar power by businesses and universities. The cap would be 1 megawatt, instead of the current 100 kilowatt limit for nonresidential solar energy.”
While my state is still miles behind when it comes to renewables, this is a slow but steady step in the right direction.
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