Solar compromise bill heads to House floor

05/16/2014 11:49 AM

05/16/2014 11:50 AM

South Carolina could quickly catch up to its northern and southern neighbors in solar energy production if a solar bill that’s headed for House debate next week gets passed this session, solar advocates say.

Georgia and North Carolina each ranked in the top 10 states for amount of solar installed in 2013.

The comprehensive solar energy bill that would allow South Carolinians to harness the sun as an energy source for electricity has avoided roadblocks so far as it makes its way to the House floor.

The bill wound its way through a House sub-committee Tuesday and passed out of the Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee on Wednesday on its way to the House floor for debate, likely sometime next week.

Solar advocates and utilities have each touted the bill as a compromise, and it has so far garnered wide support in the Senate and in its first stages of House debate.

“So far there’s been a great show of support for what is truly compromise legislation,” said Blan Holman, lead attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center based in Charleston. “I think it shows that it’s a balanced bill and will help South Carolina.”

How soon South Carolina reaps the rewards remains to be seen.

If the bill passes, the next step would be a proceeding before the state’s Public Service Commission to clarify the rates utilities would pay to customers for electricity customers generate, Holman said.

After Georgia passed a solar bill, it became the fastest-growing state for solar installations in the country in 2013 with 90.9 megawatts installed, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. That’s enough to power 8,400 homes, the report stated.

North Carolina added 335.4 megawatts of solar in 2013, enough to power nearly 32,000 homes.

South Carolina has similar potential, Holman said.

“I think a lot of people are excited about this bill, and the prospects of allowing South Carolina to catch up,” he said.

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