- The South Carolina General Assembly passed a bill increasing access to solar that was hammered out by lengthy negotiation between state solar advocates and environmentalists, the dominant regional utilities, and multiple stakeholders.
- The bill establishes a legal basis for solar to be financed through lease agreements with third party funders, a financing structure that has dramatically expanded installed solar capacity wherever it has been available because it allows homeowners to add solar without upfront costs or maintenance responsibilities.
- The bill protects South Carolina’s existing net energy metering incentive, which has supported some solar growth, but requires state regulators to institute a value-of-solar proceeding to re-evaluate the controversial practice of reimbursing net metered solar at retail electricity rates.
Advocates for large national solar leasing companies such as The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) initially opposed the legislation, claiming it allowed utilities an advantage over the private sector, but eventually backed off when the local coalition of solar advocates and solar businesses agreed to strengthen language already in the bill promising oversight by state regulators.
The mandated state Public Utility Commission value-of-solar proceeding will establish cost-benefit methodology by which regulators can replace the retail rate with a more accurately calculated amount utilities must pay – or charge – solar owners for the electricity their solar sends to the grid.
Utilities are concerned that lower bills paid by solar owners as a result of net energy metering will shift pro-rated infrastructure costs to non-solar owners while increased levels of solar on the grid addes to stresses on the transmission-distribution system.
Solar advocates say adding solar to the grid will relieve stress on the transmission-distribution system, lower power prices, and increase delivery reliability if utilities and grid operators adopt best-practice resource integration and electricity market operations.