While South Carolina’s investor-owned utilities are making affordable solar power more accessible for families and businesses, state-owned Santee Cooper is going in the opposite direction by proposing stiff charges that would penalize customers for exercising their right to use this clean, renewable resource.
Santee Cooper staff recently proposed a fee that would make solar cost-prohibitive for its customers. The tax, not levied by any other South Carolina utility, would amount to a monthly charge of approximately $30 for an average solarized household.
Like energy efficiency upgrades, solar lets customers take more control of their monthly energy bills to reduce the impact of rising rates—something to be encouraged, not punished. Private utilities Duke Energy and South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. offer solar programs with no punitive metering or standby charges. They also offer retail-rate net metering to their customers, meaning customers are paid the full retail rate for extra energy they send back to the grid. Santee-Cooper proposes to pay solar customers less than the retail rate and then hit them with charges. The result? Lights-out for solar.
Santee Cooper customers should enjoy at least as much solar opportunity as those served by Duke and SCE&G. The utility’s proposed rate (DG-16) is up for discussion at its board meeting on Friday, October 16, at 41 St. Paul Place in Pawleys Island. The Board is slated to hear public comments on the solar rate beginning at 1:30 p.m. at the Oct. 16 meeting. The board will vote on the solar rate a meeting in Moncks Corner on December 7.
Update: Unfortunately, Santee Cooper's board approved these punitive fees at its December meeting.