New South Carolina law keeps solar working for Palmetto State

Today, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster signed a law removing the brakes on South Carolina’s growing solar industry. The Energy Freedom Act, which unanimously passed both the state House and Senate, removes artificial caps on rooftop solar and opens the lane for thousands of megawatts of large scale solar.

“This accelerates South Carolina’s move from dirty power to clean energy competition and it will lower electricity bills, attract new businesses, and reduce pollution impacts across the state,” said Blan Holman, managing attorney of SELC’s South Carolina office. “The legislature said yes to more energy competition and no to more costly disasters like the V.C. Summer nuclear debacle. It’s a bipartisan pivot towards the future.”

South Carolina’s solar industry, which took hold in 2014 with passage of legislation establishing net metering and lifting some of the restrictions on solar power, has emerged as one of the nation’s fastest-growing rooftop solar markets. But when the number of rooftop installations started hitting a cap set in that 2014 bill and large-scale solar interconnections slowed, the state’s solar progress was in jeopardy, threatening the 3,000 jobs it had created.

After an attempt to lift limits failed last year, bipartisan leaders doubled down in 2019 to unanimously pass the Energy Freedom Act. The new law expands access to solar by

  • eliminating the arbitrary rooftop solar net metering and leasing caps;
  • expanding successful community solar programs, including an express intent to provide solar access for low income customers;
  • enabling corporate access to renewable energy;
  • reforming the state’s long-term planning processes for electricity generation; and
  • establishing commercially reasonable contract term lengths for large scale solar projects.

“Passing this legislation represents another major step in solidifying South Carolina’s role as a regional clean energy leader,” said Lauren Bowen, attorney for SELC’s Solar Initiative. “Now it will be easier for businesses to tap into South Carolina’s vast solar potential and utilities will be required to consider more cost-effective renewable energy in proposed plans to meet future energy needs.”

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