Wright: Solar expansion must keep SC electricity costs fair

December 18, 2013 

Wright

— As a former S.C. public utility regulator, I took great interest in the Nov. 27 article, “Study: Utilities should brace for solar power rise,” as many have been eagerly awaiting the report on the future of solar power by the Energy Advisory Council, a special joint panel under the direction of our state’s Public Utilities Review Committee.

Solar power has tremendous potential and will play an important role in South Carolina’s future electricity mix. However, it is critically important that state officials ensure that net-metering policies designed to promote the growth of solar also protect all electricity customers from cost increases and cost shifts.

With the deployment of additional rooftop solar systems, it’s critical to recognize the important role of the electric grid — the backbone of our electric power system. The grid includes all of the poles, wires, meters, advanced technologies and other infrastructure that make it safe, reliable and able to accommodate rooftop solar systems.

Solar homes rely on the electric grid to provide power at night or on cloudy days, and to sell excess electricity they produce back to their local utility company. But under current policies, solar homes don’t pay toward the costs of the grid. The draft report released by the legislative committee rightfully recognizes that customers who do not have or cannot afford solar may see increased costs, or cost shifts, as rooftop solar grows. The costs to maintain the grid must be fairly and transparently shared by all customers who use the grid, whether they utilize rooftop solar or not.

As debate continues and policymakers consider ways to promote solar growth, as well as other potential distributed generation resources, a top priority must be protecting all of South Carolina’s electricity customers from unnecessary and increased costs. Solar power can provide us with additional clean-energy benefits, on top of those we already experience through our state’s nuclear fleet, a base-load generation resource that is greenhouse-gas free.

The right policies can lead to a bright and sustainable future for solar in South Carolina, while also keeping electricity prices fair and affordable for everyone.

David Wright

Columbia

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