Turner Padget Insights

Taylor Speer Unpacks South Carolina's New Energy Freedom Act in Article for Solar Industry

Posted On July 12, 2019

In an article published on July 11, 2019, Taylor Speer and solar industry leaders in South Carolina unpack South Carolina’s “Energy Freedom Act” and the legislative climate leading up to the bill’s enactment in May following unanimous votes in the South Carolina Legislature.

The article details how the new law will benefit consumers and utility-scale solar developers, including how the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) will give ratepayers more options in their consumption and solar developers more control in a regulated monopoly. According to Bruce Wood, president of Sunstore Solar, a rooftop contractor in Greenville, S.C., the new law “transitions the state’s solar policy to a sustainable, market-based economy that will rely less and less on assistance from ratepayers.”

The Energy Freedom Act follows the state’s loss of $9 billion and thousands of jobs after the shutdown of two nuclear reactor units, which has cost ratepayers an estimated $2.3 billion. Additionally, South Carolina’s two investor-owned utilities (IOUs), Duke Energy and South Carolina Electric & Gas (now Dominion Energy), maxed out the 2% net energy metering (NEM) cap they previously agreed to under a former law, which ultimately resulted in the death of net metering and nearly all rooftop solar jobs in the state. The new law saves South Carolina’s NEM and the rooftop solar jobs that come along with it.

On the utility-scale solar side, the new law requires the PSC to open dockets and review the avoided cost practices used by the state’s utilities to establish a price for qualifying facility generation, while also prohibiting power purchase agreements that offer to buy it for less. “Requirements for inclusivity and transparency in clean energy dockets create just the type of regulatory environment that’s good for IOUs, good for developers and great for our S.C. clean energy economy,” says Bonnie Loomis, executive director of the South Carolina Clean Energy Alliance.

Overall, South Carolina is sending a signal that it intends to be involved in the country’s energy revolution by taking measures to ensure it provides opportunities for fair, clean energy. “The unanimous support for the Energy Freedom Act shows the power that a bipartisan coalition of clean energy supporters can have,” says John Tynan, executive director of Conservation Voters of South Carolina (CVSC). Tynan notes that history may show the 2019 South Carolina General Assembly session as “the year of the environment.”

To read the full article, please click here.