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South Carolina at an Energy Crossroads

As former Chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, I was as surprised as anyone by some of last week’s primary election results. Political upheaval seems to be the norm these days, rather than a rarity.

In this age of amazing technology and rapid economic change, it seems our citizens are often frustrated by how slowly government tends to move to address their wishes. Rightly, one outlet is the ballot box, but it would help for government to break down more barriers to entrepreneurs and consumers. These barriers often stand in the way of innovation.

For example, we’ve all heard the story of South Carolina’s so-called “solar cap.” It’s the lesser-known energy crisis of 2018 where rooftop solar net metering faces a 2% cliff under state law. Those caps place an arbitrary limit on the amount of homegrown solar we can have in South Carolina. Duke Energy Carolinas will likely hit their cap any day now, with SCE&G only a few months behind. Back in April, the South Carolina House of Representatives passed House Bill 4421 one day before a procedural issue prevented the legislation from receiving third reading.

Why is this so important to average citizens? South Carolina consumers want access to solar energy. Yet when these artificial caps are hit, it will severely limit access to solar energy by undercutting the economic value of solar for homeowners.

Additionally, it will bring our state’s growing solar economy to a grinding halt and put thousands of good-quality, local jobs at risk. Yet nothing has been done to stop that from happening, either. It’s clear that free market competition and energy choices, like solar power, should be part of the solution. Our state’s energy sector can’t take another major hit on the heels of VC Summer nuclear debacle.

This week is critical for those who care about energy choice. Six legislators in both the House and Senate – conferees on the state’s budget bill – will meet to consider which amendments get approved and which get rejected. This includes an amendment to the budget authored by Nathan Ballentine (R-Lexington County) that solves the solar cap problem by extending it temporarily while stakeholders work on a comprehensive solution. This is a win-win for ratepayers, utilities, and solar companies that should be passed.

Our state is at an energy crossroads. We need to be smart about promoting new technology that creates jobs instead of the outdated energy infrastructure of the past. We need to work together to empower citizens to make their own choices and to create a distributed grid that is resilient after natural disasters. South Carolina is a state that champions job growth and innovation, and we can’t let artificial barriers stop our momentum in that direction. Please join me in calling one our state legislators to responsibly raise the cap on solar.

Matt Moore is Chairman of the Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition.

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