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January 20th, 2019
By Shelley Robbins
The second week of session is now behind us, and energy continues to be our focal point. Last week I promised to show how South Carolinians support energy choice and the significant impact the solar industry has had on the Upstate economy. To the first point - 77% of voters would support a new law that gives consumers more choices in where they buy power according to a statewide survey of registered voters conducted by Benchmark Research for VoteSolar in December. And there was 96% agreement (strongly agree or agree) on the question "Consumers should have the choice to install solar panels on their home or business to reduce reliance on the utility." You can read the full report here.
What about the economic impact of solar jobs? Take a look at the map above. In short, the Upstate has been very fortunate. Click here to see the entire map, prepared by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, but this snippet shows you how important solar energy has been to our economy. The Upstate companies that light up this map include Mitsubishi Polyester Film in Greer, Zimmer America Solar Power in Spartanburg, Ulbrich Solar Technologies, Inc. in Westminster, VELUX America in Greenwood, Tablerock Technologies, LLC in Pickens, Palmetto Solar Solutions in Iva, Matiaqua Inc. in Easley, Green Energy Partners in Landrum, and of course long-time Upstate business SunStore Solar in Greer. And this is not even the complete list. We would love to see this kind of economic development spread widely across the state, but that will not be possible without legislative changes.
The House and Senate now have virtually identical energy bills awaiting sub-committee hearing, S. 332 and H. 3659. Having a bill in each chamber will help the process move faster if they are both passed in a timely manner. Jobs are at stake here in the Upstate - those jobs listed above and many others - because Duke Energy Carolinas' residential solar program expires on March 15. And the residential solar programs in other parts of the state will expire shortly after that. To address this, Upstate Forever is part of the 100 Day Clean Energy Agenda (cleanenergysc.com), and we and countless others across the state are working to pass legislation quickly that will address the residential rooftop crisis while also increasing competition and bringing down costs to ratepayers. Click on the website to learn more.
Upstate Rep. Davey Hiott (Chairman of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee) filed H. 3483, which strengthens protections against coal ash contamination by repealing the sunset clause in the 2016 Act 138. This bill will get a sub-committee hearing this coming week. Unsafe disposal of coal ash is a potentially devastating issue, and we are proud that members of our Upstate delegation have taken the lead on this issue. A shocking report on current coal ash contamination problems can be found here, but note the bright spot in the article:
"But as widespread as the contamination appears to be, environmental advocates are finding a measure of hope... All power plants in South Carolina, for example, are removing the ash from their unlined ponds to prevent them from leaking pollution into nearby waterways." Let's keep South Carolina a bright spot.
And we continue to applaud the bills filed by Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (H. 3336) and Upstate Senator Danny Verdin (S. 362) that would provide for tax credits for solar development on Superfund sites. Senator Verdin's bill extends the credits to Voluntary Cleanup Sites as well. This is an excellent way to make these sites economically productive again and we wholeheartedly support these bills and hope to see more Upstate co-sponsors and action on these bills soon.
There are many, many good energy bills this year, most a result of the failures that were highlighted by the V.C. Summer debacle. There are also bills opposing offshore drilling and seismic testing, and an Action Center on that issue will be up and running in the next week or two - I will let you know when it goes live. This is an important issue in the Upstate as well as the Lowcountry. It's our coast too.
Until next week!
Energy and State Policy Director