CVSC and clean energy supporters like you celebrated when the South Carolina legislature unanimously passed the Energy Freedom Act earlier this year. We thought the future was bright. After all, the legislature gave clear direction that they wanted more competition and more solar in South Carolina.
But on Friday, we saw six of the seven Public Service Commissioners turn their backs on the legislature, the public, and clean energy. In one fell swoop, they brought about a “doomsday scenario” for large-scale solar in South Carolina.
Only one Commissioner – Justin Williams from the 6th District – spoke out in support of solar, arguing that the South Carolina House and Senate were clear that they wanted more renewables in South Carolina. His colleagues, unfortunately, sided with the utility monopolies.
The PSC was considering two key items that have to do with large scale solar projects – solar payments (also called avoided cost) and contract length.
The Commission slashed the payments that utilities make to large-scale solar producers by 33% for both Dominion and Duke Energy. That’s like waking up and finding that you’re making 33% less than you made yesterday. No industry and no individual can survive that kind of hit.
To add insult to injury, Dominion’s solar payments are now some of the worst in the country.
But it gets worse. The Commission also limited all solar contracts to 10 years, despite the solar industry and the Commission’s own expert showing that 15-20 year contract options are critical for solar development in South Carolina.
That’s right. The Commission even ignored the expert that they paid to advise them.
What Happens Next?
Unless something major changes, things look bleak for solar in SC. These were the first big decisions to implement the Energy Freedom Act, and the PSC used them to kill solar competition and preserve the status quo.
Now, the combo of low solar payments and short contracts means it is unlikely any new large-scale solar will be built. This combo also means there are billions in private clean energy investment that may leave the state. And it means there are now thousands of solar jobs at risk in South Carolina, yet again.
What You Can Do.
These actions don’t leave any doubt – the will of the legislature and the public was ignored. The utility monopolies still have their thumb on the scale of energy decision-making in South Carolina.
Drastic changes are needed in drastic times. That’s where you come in.
The State House and Senate need to know that conservation voters like you are paying attention to the actions of the PSC and that you don’t approve.
At a time when communities across the state are asking for clean energy, it is unacceptable for the PSC to bring solar development to a screeching halt. Solar brings jobs and lower bills, and it provides a clean, renewable energy source for customers.
We need leadership at all levels to put South Carolinians and our clean energy future first.
We saw the House and Senate do it earlier this year and we’ve watched as community after community did the same. With your help and pressure, they can make some major changes and fix this problem we now face.