Fight to Open SCE&G to Solar Competition Heads to SC Supreme Court
At Issue is Utility’s Push to Undercut Solar Power; Reduce Competition
COLUMBIA, SC — A South Carolina Public Service Commission (PSC) order that stifles cost-cutting energy competition in SCE&G territory is being appealed to the South Carolina Supreme Court.
The issue is how much SCE&G will pay for power generated by solar facilities seeking to compete with SCE&G. Under federal law, SCE&G is required to use power from those companies if their power costs the same or less than SCE&G’s cost to generate the same energy.
SCE&G claims its costs to generate will be so low that solar can’t compete – even though the company charges the nation’s highest electric bills, and now seeks billions of dollars to pay for a failed nuclear project. The PSC, which approved numerous SCE&G nuclear cost overruns in the past, issued an order in May adopting SCE&G’s solar claims, boxing out competition even while solar prices fall around the nation.
“This is exactly the wrong time to block competitive clean energy that could lower power bills across South Carolina” said Blan Holman, a managing attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center in Charleston. “States like Texas have clean energy competition with lower power bills and South Carolinians are entitled to more freedom from monopoly control. We are asking the Supreme Court to restore that freedom and reverse this anti-competitive commission order.”
The groups filing the appeal contend the PSC improperly treated solar energy as having little value to customers, even though it hits maximum production on the hottest days of the year when power costs spike. Commissions and utilities in other states have recognized solar’s predictable capacity boost on sunny days and reduction of fossil fuel expenses throughout the year.
The Commission’s backing of SCE&G’s devaluing of solar power comes as the company-backed VC Summer nuclear plant collapsed, half-finished, in a mountain of debt and mismanagement so bad that federal agents are investigating. Meanwhile, SCE&G customers are on the hook for billions of dollars to cover the failed nuclear plant, even though it will never produce electricity.
“Now more than ever we need more access to inexpensive, renewable power in South Carolina,” said Bryan Jacob of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
“This case is about simply fulfilling current law, which requires the utility to purchase renewable energy when it costs less,” said Eddy Moore of the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League. “The Commission sided with SCE&G over the objection of virtually every other testifying party in the case, including neutral state employees at the Office of Regulatory Staff. That’s why we are taking this to the Supreme Court.”
SELC is representing the Coastal Conservation League and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy in this appeal.
For more than 30 years, the Southern Environmental Law Center has used the power of the law to champion the environment of the Southeast. With over 70 attorneys and nine offices across the region, SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect our natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region. www.SouthernEnvironment.org