The Solar Power sector of America’s energy market is celebrating in South Carolina after the recent passing of the Energy Freedom Act. The bill approved in the South Carolina House makes major changes in electricity policies in the state. It calls for raising the net metering cap, reforms PURPA, and reforms utility planning processes give solar a fair chance at competing.
This is huge news for the solar power market in the South, not just South Carolina. Solar has had difficulty making inroads in the region due to oppressive polices that favor utility monopolies along with conservative politicians.
After the abandonment of a project by the state-controlled utility Santee Cooper to construct two new reactors at the Sumner Nuclear Power Plant this is needed good news. The utility still has over $4 billion in debt for nuclear projects at the plant for construction that stopped almost two years ago. This debt is being charged to Santee Cooper customers at a rate of $5 per month but scheduled to go up to $13 per month for the next four decades.
These additional charges may not seem like much, but they add insult to injury in South Carolina where electric bills are already the highest in the country. This is due not only to the heavy use of AC units to counteract the heat and humidity of the summer but also the high prices charged by utility company.
This news is a big surprise in a GOP run state that typically has been slow to adapt to renewable energy. Traditionally, GOP politicians have been at best unsupportive of renewable energy initiatives and at times downright hostile to them at both state and federal levels. They also are more inclined to deny climate change and turn a blind eye to carbon emissions which are currently the highest they have ever been.
The Solar Energy Industries Association, established in 1974, is a national non-profit trade association of the solar-energy industry in the United States. Maggie Clark, SEIA’s Southeast State Affairs manager, says that the Energy Freedom Act is about reforming rules and opening the market to competition. Energy independence and cost savings is ultimately what got Republican politicians on board with the bill.
After California, Texas has led the installation of renewable energy plants in the form of wind turbines and solar farms. Larger cities in the eastern part of the state are fed power from wind and solar originating in the less populated sunny and windy areas in the north, west, and center. The transmission lines that allowed for this delivery of energy were paid for by socializing the cost across utility customers in the state. Texas and socialism, now that’s ironic!
Louisiana is another example of how well subsidies and rebates work to help increase renewable energy adaptation. After Katrina, the state implemented a 50% rebate on solar panel installation for 10 years which was responsible for massive growth. Far right politicians railed against it but it was a huge success and created a lot of jobs for a state known for high unemployment.
For the solar power industry to thrive in the south we have to get away from “old thinking” and conservative politicians must embrace the free market that they continually say they stand for. The electricity sector in southern states is far from “free market” with the vast majority controlled by state-run utility monopolies that allow no competition. Most of the solar installations in the south to date have been state controlled solar farms, not residential rooftop solar.
The hardest areas to get into for 3rd party solar companies are those where the energy is controlled by old utility behemoths like Entergy, Southern Company, and the Tennessee Valley Authority. It is a David vs. Goliath battle but it is a battle that is being won more and more by renewables as consumers demand it.
ClearWorld has demonstrated tremendous success even in the State of Louisiana where electricity costs per kilowatt hour are among the lowest in the country. Contact ClearWorld today to get a free no obligation quote for your organization’s solar lighting project.