Hotlist: Energy Policy Update
Hey there, it has been a while! The General Assembly isn’t in session, but they’ve still been busy. Over the last few months, the House and Senate have both been meeting in various committees to talk about an extremely complex topic: energy policy. Though the issue is complex, the way in which we generate our energy affects everyone. So let’s dive in:
How Does South Carolina Generate Its Energy? There are a lot of choices for energy generation, but the choices we make have consequences to our environment, our communities, and our wallets. In South Carolina, the majority of our generation comes from nuclear power – about 56%. The rest looks something like this:
- Natural Gas – 28%
- Coal – 8%
- Hydroelectric – 4%
- Non Hydroelectric Renewables (like solar or wind) – 4%
This energy mix isn’t surprising, but as the use of coal continues to wane and the affordability and viability of solar continues to grow, our state needs to make some big, forward-thinking decisions on how we generate our energy going forward.
Why are we talking about this now? Climate change concerns aside, there are a number of things going on that make a policy shift more likely. First, the war in Ukraine has illustrated the risky nature of natural gas by pushing its price way up. South Carolinians already have some of the highest residential electricity bills in the nation, and they’re about to get higher. Both Duke and Dominion have requested rate hikes at the Public Service Commission. Between already approved rate hikes and those pending, next year’s residential electricity bills could be nearly 20% higher than this year’s, depending on your utility. Continued reliance on volatile natural gas is going to continue to subject ratepayers to high, unpredictable bills.
Second, the General Assembly has signaled that it is open to suggestions in how we regulate our utilities and how we generate our energy. The joint Electricity Market Reform Measures Study Committee has been meeting throughout the off-season to discuss and make recommendations to the general assembly on how we might reform the structure of the current utility market to allow better access to low cost, reliable resources.
Also, Speaker Smith recently convened an Economic Development and Utility Modernization ad hoc committee. Their first hearings have focused on our energy generation, its cost, and the effect it has on businesses choosing to locate here. When companies and industries are making decisions on where they want to locate, many are looking at the availability of reliable, renewable energy that meets their sustainability goals and the cost of that energy. As you can see from the breakdown above, our investment in renewable energy has been dismal. Our commercial and industrial electricity rates reflect that.
What are the solutions? Renewables. Renewable energy now costs less per megawatt than coal and natural gas. Technology is improving every day, storage is becoming more affordable, and new federal tax incentives for renewables are a ‘gamechanger’ for the power sector. We need to see more renewable energy in our generation mix, and we need to see the General Assembly, utilities, and the Public Service Commission get on board.
What can you do? Contact your legislator! Tell lawmakers to protect SC citizens from volatile energy costs. Learn how to testify! If you’re a Dominion customer, you can testify at the public hearing on rate increases. Fill out this form for more info.