Editorial: Solar energy needs encouraging in S.C.

  • Posted: Friday, December 13, 2013 12:01 a.m.

Homeowners, schools and churches can see savings on their power bills, but South Carolina lawmakers must step up and make changes to the state’s solar energy laws to do so.

There are already a number of bills introduced in the General Assembly that can make that possible and generate benefits throughout the state, including in Aiken County.

South Carolina has among the nation’s most restrictive laws on the use of solar energy, including what’s called “third party leasing.”

This restricts utilities from leasing solar panels and energy generation equipment to a homeowner or business, which also allows consumers to sell back electricity they don’t use to power companies.

However, S.C. Sen. Greg Gregory, R-Lancaster, is the lead sponsor of a bill that would allow such transactions, alleviating high installation costs for solar power materials. Such systems can cost up to $20,000, according to the Post and Courier newspaper.

The legislation has received bipartisan support, garnering 16 total cosponsors – half Republicans and half Democrats.

With support for solar energy generating support on both sides of the aisle, the state should be optimistic that real, substantiative changes can take place.

Earlier this year, the state’s Energy Advisory Council released a draft report that indicates South Carolina is on the verge of a “sea change” in the use of solar power. The draft report noted that solar panels are increasingly becoming more affordable, and consequently, the state should be wise to invest in a broader energy portfolio in the future.

Hamilton Davis, a member of the Energy Advisory Council and Energy and Climate Director for the S.C. Coastal Conservation League, indicated that, unlike some renewable energy sources, there are little regional differences in the state when it comes to solar production.

Essentially, that means there’s not a major difference between Aiken or Charleston or Greenville when it comes to generating solar power. This should make legislators across the state receptive to solar-friendly initiatives. Green energy such as solar power is not only beneficial to the environment, but can also help create jobs.

A University of California report in 2004 concluded that the U.S. could expect nearly 87,000 new energy jobs in the U.S. by 2020 if the country continues with a mixed energy portfolio. South Carolina could see a slice of those benefits if it worked toward more solar-friendly laws.

While the industry tries to gain traction in the state, it’s a different story in many western and northeastern states, according to The State newspaper. Those regions allow leasing companies to operate and sell low-cost panels, creating a stronger foundation for the industry.

However, with increased awareness among policy makers and regulators, our state should be confident that we can change our energy policies and allow this burgeoning resource to work effectively within South Carolina.

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