South Carolina is going to have to continue to pursue a sustainable energy portfolio if it wants business growth. That’s the message being sent not just from the usual suspects such as conservation groups, but now from the S.C. Department of Commerce.

Bobby Hitt, who was appointed by Republican S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley to head the Commerce Department, said new companies are increasingly looking for clean energy capabilities when they locate to a certain area. “They want and expect us to support them in their goals of energy efficiency and clean energy, which goes beyond renewables,” Hitt said at a recent event for promoting clean energy business, according to the The State newspaper.

Hitt added that the cost of energy is typically at the forefront of discussions when the state is recruiting new industry. This is particularly true of international businesses, which have increasingly eyed South Carolina in recent years.

The more industry our state attracts, the more jobs that are created. Consequently, it’s imperative that South Carolina offers an accommodating energy platform to attract companies.

South Carolina’s new solar energy law, for instance, is expected to expand the use of solar power throughout the state, which supporters say will boost the economy and create jobs. The legislature also passed a bill that will lower investment thresholds to get tax credits for clean energy manufacturing.

The attitude of state lawmakers when it comes to supporting clean energy is clearly changing, and if we listen to economic development experts such as Hitt, that’s a good thing.

Jim Poch, executive director of the S.C. Clean Energy Business Alliance, speaking to ETV radio, somewhat jokingly noted that “two years ago, if you said renewable portfolio standard, you’d get picked up and thrown out of the Statehouse.” That’s thankfully not the case now with policymakers making fairly significant steps to move South Carolina forward.

Cleaner technology such as solar, wind and biomass are wisely becoming much more cost competitive with fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas. Having statewide policies that support those clean energies should ultimately prove beneficial in the long-term.

Alan Hancock, program director for the Conservation Voters of South Carolina, noted that large manufacturers are also being encouraged by their investors and shareholders to have a certain amount of their energy come from clean energy targets.

“There are companies that are coming in that are trying to meet corporate goals for sustainability. In order to achieve those goals, they need state policies that are supportive of clean energies like solar and wind,” Hancock said.

Energy should certainly be affordable, but it should also be efficient. The state needs to continually study the best way to make sure South Carolina promotes such sustainable energy, but can also attract business. The two clearly are becoming less and less mutually exclusive. Becoming a model for energy efficiency and job promotion would be a noteworthy achievement for South Carolina, and a goal that should continue to be pursued by policymakers.