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March 12th, 2018
By Shelley Robbins
We finished Week 9 of our 18 week session with our first major energy bill passing both the Senate and the House. S. 954, which sets a timeline for the Public Service Commission to rule on the SCANA/Dominion merger (between November 1 and December 21), passed the House with an amendment that will reduce SCE&G customers' rates by 18% on a temporary basis while the legalities of the larger issue (the prudency of each rate increase for the abandoned V.C. Summer nuclear plant) are worked out in court. If this amendment is agreed upon by both chambers during Conference Committee, then SCE&G customers will see a rate drop put in place 5 working days after the Governor signs the bill.
Our other "biggie" this past week - H. 4727 Conservation Bank Reauthorization Bill - passed out of the Senate Finance subcommittee with a favorable report and will be heard by the full Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday, March 13. If the full committee approves the bill, then the last hurdle is the Senate floor. This bill could conceivably be on the floor as early as Thursday but more likely next week. It would be tremendous serendipity if the bill is heard on March 20, which is Conservation Lobby Day.
We were delighted to see that Greenville Representative Chandra Dillard's H. 4644 - a bill that gives DHEC tools to deal with solid waste crises (such as landfill fires that emit dangerous fumes) and ensures that construction and demolition recyclers handle their materials properly - passed the House overwhelmingly and is heading to the Senate.
The Plastic Bag "Ban Ban" Bill H. 3529 is likely heading for a Senate subcommittee hearing this coming Thursday. This bill concerns us because it sets a dangerous precedent as an assault on home rule by telling communities that they cannot create local solutions for local problems. See our Action Center link and take action.
Back to energy: H. 4375 and H. 4379 passed out of the House and are scheduled for their third Senate subcommittee meeting tomorrow. H. 4375 establishes a solid definition of "prudence" for utility capital investments and H. 4379 establishes a Consumer Advocate. Both of these bills are crucial to ensure we never have another V.C. Summer situation again. S. 890, the Energy Freedom Act, still has not received its first hearing and time is running out. This bill requires the PSC to standardize the way large-scale solar contracts are handled and requires greater transparency.
A showdown: The bill that provides for residential solar and the continuation of net metering, H. 4421, passed out of committee and is heading for the House floor. This bill will face a showdown with H. 5045, our first bad energy bill, being pushed by the utilities that pulls a bait and switch on customers who signed up for rooftop solar by changing the rate they will be paid for excess solar generation if their system is not "energized" by the effective date of the bill. The lag in interconnection time for customers who contracted for rooftop solar under the provisions of Act 236 is generally a utility issue, not a customer issue. Both of these bills will meet on the House floor very soon. Finally, H. 4425, the bill that sets energy efficiency targets and improves the utility planning process, was sent back to subcommittee, slowing its progress.
We have an ACTION CENTER especially for energy issues. Please check it out!