South Carolina needs to ramp up its efforts to pursue renewable energy sources sooner rather than later.

In order to determine the best course of action, South Carolina should develop a comprehensive and logical energy plan for the future. Any guideline needs to lead the state toward pursuing renewable energy sources while also promoting energy efficiency in homes.

A proposed plan must be flexible, but still give South Carolinians a way to improve their energy consumption and preserve our state for future generations.

Providing tax incentives is a viable option, but any project must be properly evaluated and analyzed to determine the level of priority and actual impact on our energy consumption.

Our state certainly doesn’t need to experience any kind of Solyndra-like scandal that hit the federal government during President Barack Obama’s first term. The California-based solar startup went bankrupt even after receiving $535 million in federal loan guarantees. The state would unlikely face a mismanagement on that scale, but any similar incentive bungle would set back our state in both the short and long term.

One of the biggest draws of becoming more energy efficient is the possible reduction in the cost of our electricity bills. Making a home more energy-efficient can potentially provide hundreds of dollars in savings each year. South Carolina should ease the cost of installing energy efficient windows and heating and air conditioning units to help residents move in that direction. Utility companies have programs in place now to soften the expense of installing those upgrades, but those efforts need to be broadened and made available to more customers.

Also, according to The Charleston Post & Courier, South Carolina residents pay the highest average electric rates in the South, and the largest utility companies in the state are actually currently seeking rate increases. In neighboring Georgia and North Carolina, residents on average pay about $10 less a month than folks in South Carolina, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Extra savings to the pockets of South Carolinians means more cash in the pockets of consumers, which helps to grow local economies.

The state should also pursue expanding solar, wind and biomass production. Each of those sources are considered renewable energies, meaning availability doesn’t decrease over time with usage as with oil consumption. Our state could set the national example of how to get off foreign oil, a message delivered by both Democratic and Republican presidents for the last six decades.

An added benefit of strengthening our renewable energy portfolio would be new job growth that would help to bolster our economy.

A stronger economy could generate new state dollars that could go toward strengthening our education system or lowering taxes.

South Carolina could also partner with universities around the state, giving faculty and students a chance to research, and work with entities such as the Savannah River Site to explore new innovations. With proper collaboration and forward thinking, we could gain a leading edge over the rest of the county and even the world.