S.C. nuke failure should lead to more solar, not less

Growth in South Carolina's solar industry has allowed the state to lower energy costs and reduce air pollution while creating jobs. (© Alice Keeney)

With the $9 billion failure of a nuclear plant construction still consuming the South Carolina legislature, backers of carbon-free energy are bracing for another setback: a possible restriction on expansion of solar power.

A 2014 South Carolina law that eased solar restrictions predictably boosted solar installations and created thousands of jobs. But it has been so successful that the state is running up against a legislative cap on solar energy installations urged into law by utilities who feared profit loss. Once the cap is reached, South Carolina’s booming solar industry could wilt, costing thousands of jobs.

“Our utilities are still billing customers for a $9 billion hole in the ground that will never power a single light bulb,” said SELC attorney Blan Holman, speaking of the nuclear units at V.C. Summer that collapsed in the contractor’s bankruptcy after years of cost overruns and oversight failures. “And now the utilities want to cut off another opportunity for homes and businesses to save money on pollution-free solar energy. That makes absolutely no sense.”

Here’s how reporter Sammy Fretwell of The State explained the solar cap that was negotiated into the 2014 law:

State utilities, fearful a wholesale move to solar power could cut into their profits, negotiated a limit on the expansion of solar energy. That included a 2 percent cap on a power company’s peak average demand for energy over five years.

The cutback would affect SCE&G and Duke Energy customers because the utilities are regulated by the South Carolina Public Services Commission. It would not affect Santee Cooper customers.

Eddy Moore, the energy issues director for the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League told The State: “If we hit the cap, it could be devastating – and we are not just crying wolf.”

Even though South Carolina has some of the country’s most consistently sunny days, solar energy production lagged before the 2014 law. According to The State, there were 300 rooftop solar installations in 2014, the year the law was passed. But after the favorable legislation, that number jumped to 4,000 rooftop systems.

“The complete and distressingly expensive failure of the V.C. Summer plant should be a rallying cry for solar energy,” Holman said. “Solar helps customers save money, and those savings could offset the nuclear tax they’re still paying to cover the failed plant. It is imperative the legislature remove the cap on solar installations and give South Carolinians more choice when it comes to managing their energy use and their budgets.”

More News

Conservation groups seek to stop wood pellet company’s illegal pollution of Lumber River

On behalf of Winyah Rivers Alliance, SELC notified Active Energy Renewable Power today that the British-owned company must stop its unpermitted d...

Southern Virginia highway proposal threatens recent progress

This week, SELC filed comments on behalf of itself and 16 organizations on the draft environmental impact statement for the wasteful and destruct...

Nashville mayor signs letter urging Congressional climate action

Nashville Mayor John Cooper is one of nearly 200 U.S. mayors advocating for a zero-carbon green economy that creates jobs and emphasizes equity b...

Thank you for fighting the Atlantic Coast Pipeline with us

When, on July 5th, Duke Energy and Dominion Energy abruptly cancelled the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, it didn't come out of nowhere. For years, SELC...

SELC seeks nominations for 2021 Reed Environmental Writing Award

We are now accepting submissions for the 2021 Phillip D. Reed Environmental Writing Awards. Nominations are welcome from anyone, including reader...

Lawsuit: Government illegally ‘cut corners’ to ram through NEPA changes

SELC is representing a group of 17 environmental organizations in a lawsuit filed today accusing the government of racing through an industry-fri...

More Stories