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Legislative Updates 2021: February 8-12

February 15th, 2021
By Shelley Robbins

Week 5 in the Statehouse

Highlights:

  • House budget timeline
  • Deep Dive: Electric Vehicles - Barriers and Bills
  • Incineration and Pyrolysis update
  • ACTION CENTER for Bill S. 525

Five weeks down, thirteen to go in the 2021 session. The House continues to work on the budget in its subcommittees. The budget heads to the full Ways and Means Committee March 2, and then hopefully deliberations will begin on the House floor the week of March 22. After the budget passes the House, it crosses over to the Senate and will be assigned to the Senate Finance Committee. An important upcoming date is April 10, or "crossover." Bills in each chamber much pass on one side and then cross over to the other chamber by this date in order to have a chance of passing this year. The House Santee Cooper bill, H. 3194, has already done this. The remaining bills we support still have eight more weeks to complete their journey through their originating chamber.

Deep Dive: Electric Vehicles

This just might be the year for significant electric vehicle policy change in South Carolina, both in the Statehouse and at the SC Public Service Commission.

A bill that will remove a significant barrier to electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure got a hearing this past Wednesday. H. 3582, sponsored by Upstate Representatives Bill Sandifer and Jay West, clarifies that EV charging stations that purchase electricity and then resell to EV drivers are not considered a utility and therefore not subject to PSC regulation. There was a great discussion led by Representative Russell Ott and Upstate Representative Brian White of the possibility of powering EV charging stations with solar power, and Upstate Representative Anne Thayer brought up the concept of mobile charging services. We are so pleased that this subcommittee is clearly looking to the future. The subcommittee adjourned debate on the bill in order to send it back to staff to add language addressing these considerations. The House bill has two similar Senate companions, S. 304 and S. 294, but neither of these has had a hearing yet. This utility designation for EV electricity resellers has been a significant barrier to increasing public charging infrastructure in SC.

One barrier to sales of EVs is the fact that we no longer have a state tax credit for hybrid electric vehicles. Tax credits, combined with increased infrastructure and special time-of-use (TOU) electricity rates that drop the price to charge a vehicle overnight, can dramatically increase EV adoption. Georgia had the tax credit and TOU rate in effect for several years and saw record EV ownership. When the tax credit expired in 2015, EV sales effectively fell off a cliff. SC should take note.

The SC Public Service Commission has approved an exciting new EV pilot program for Duke Energy. Duke Energy Carolinas will install and operate up to 40 DC fast-charging stations along major Upstate highway corridors. They will study the use of these stations as part of the three year pilot. Also approved was a residential pilot that offers homeowners a $500 rebate on a Level 2 charger combined with quarterly compensation of $41.61 (or another $166.44 per year) for allowing Duke to curtail charging for short periods. This study will help assess load characteristics, customer behavior, and how EVs interact with the grid. Read more about this program here. There is also a federal tax credit for installation of home EV charging that currently expires on December 31st.

Here is a blog post from Resources for the Future that looks at different approaches to adding charging capacity, and it includes a link to the National Renewable Energy Lab's tool for estimating how much charging infrastructure a community might need (that is also just fun to play with). Here is the Department of Energy's alternative fuels data center, where you can poke around to find out more about incentives and infrastructure.

South Carolina began these efforts even before Will Ferrell's great Super Bowl ad for General Motors. We're coming for you, Norway.

Incineration and Pyrolysis Hearings - ACTION NEEDED!

As noted last week, a House subcommittee held a hearing Wednesday on H. 3753, a bill that would open the door to a huge amount of incineration in SC and would rollback regulations for pyrolysis facilities. Upstate Forever testified along with several others, including community members, and the subcommittee adjourned debate on the bill with no plans to bring it back up. If you used the action center to send a message to your Representative, thank you!

A Senate subcommittee held a hearing Thursday on S. 525, a bill that addresses pyrolysis only, and again Upstate Forever and others testified. S. 525 has the support of Upstate Senators Danny Verdin, Mike Gambrell, Dwight Loftis and Billy Garrett. This time, the bill advanced on to the full Senate Medical Affairs Committee, scheduled for this coming Thursday at 9am. You can watch the hearing here.

We have a new action center for the Senate bill here. Pyrolysis facilities can currently operate in South Carolina under our existing rules. While the Senate bill is an improvement over the House bill, we are asking that if this bill is to move forward, it should be amended with language that protects taxpayers in the event of failure. The business model these projects are built on is unproven, and we think this is only fair. South Carolinians are tired of being dumped on and then having to foot the cleanup bill.

Until next week...

Shelley Robbins
Energy and State Policy Director

ODDS AND ENDS AND ACTIONS:

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