South Carolina Senate passes Energy Freedom Act in bipartisan vote

The solar industry commended the South Carolina Senate for passing a landmark energy bill, The Energy Freedom Act, on a bipartisan vote, and urged the House to quickly approve the measure and send it to Gov. McMaster for his signature.

Following is a statement on the bill’s passage from Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association:

“After a unanimous vote in the South Carolina House, we are glad to see that the Senate also approved this critical legislation, which will lower electricity bills and create jobs across The Palmetto State. That the bill passed with strong bipartisan support is a testament to the hard work of our many partners and allies in the state, and clean energy champions in the Legislature.

“We urge the House to quickly offer final approval of the bill, and for swift action from Governor McMaster so clean energy can resume its growth in the Palmetto State.”

If enacted, this legislation would:

  • Require the Public Service Commission to initiate a new proceeding to review and approve rates and terms provided to large-scale solar facilities, ensuring contract terms are reasonable for such projects;
  • allow large energy consumers, such as industrial manufacturers, to negotiate directly with a renewable energy supplier to more easily realize savings from solar;
  • eliminate the net metering caps and extend the existing residential solar rates for two years until the Public Service Commission determines a successor program;
  • provide for more transparency and competition in long-term utility generation planning; and
  • give the Public Service Commission the authority to establish a new neighborhood community solar program with the opportunity to expand solar access to low-income customers.

Audubon South Carolina executive director Sharon Richardson issued the following statement in response to the bill’s passage:

“The Senate’s passage of the SC Energy Freedom Act marks a great day for our state. Representing a pragmatic compromise among a diverse group of interests, this legislation will go a long way to making renewable energy more competitive and cost effective for energy consumers, ratepayers and businesses across our state. We thank members of the General Assembly for their support on this issue, particularly Rep. Peter McCoy and Senator Tom Davis for their early leadership in crafting and sponsoring the legislation. With concurrence in the SC House of Representatives expected later this week, it’s time for South Carolina to claim its rightful place as a renewable leader in the Southeast.”

“The Energy Freedom Act is a big win for all South Carolina energy consumers,” said Lynn Jurich, CEO and co-founder of Sunrun. “Policymakers listened to the people and delivered a bipartisan solution that lifts arbitrary caps on local solar energy, grows the economy, and gives more individuals access to homegrown solar a way to safeguard against the highest energy bills in the country.”

South Carolina installed more than 400 megawatts of new solar electric generating capacity in 2017, but saw slower growth in 2018 with less than 150 megawatts installed. This legislation is critical to restarting that growth, lowering electricity bills and creating new jobs across the state.

News item from SEIA

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