Rarely is South Carolina viewed as a leader in innovative or progressive laws. We saw one of those rare occasions last year when state lawmakers ensured their citizens would have expanded access to solar power and be able to benefit from the new services and technologies emerging in the energy sector. These gains being made in the solar industry have resulted in new jobs in that industry nationally, and reduced reliance on more expensive coal and nuclear energy sources.
Act 236, which the Legislature passed unanimously, will create local jobs and lower the energy costs to consumers and even to utilities. It allows consumers to avoid the up-front investment and lease solar panels, lower their home-energy costs and receive fair credit for the extra solar power they generate and contribute to the utilities for use by others. Several parties are working together under the direction of the Public Service Commission to ensure that solar policies are developed fairly, equitably and with foresight. The act provides an opportunity for schools, hospitals, churches and government to lower their costs. I hope it also will lead to expanded access by lower-income consumers — those hit hardest by skyrocketing energy costs — through subsidies programs
A recent study in Mississippi found that the benefits of rooftop solar extend beyond just the homeowner equipped with a system, to the businesses that build and maintain those systems to serve us, by helping them use the energy that shines on us all in South Carolina. In fact, solar energy provides a net financial benefit to all utility ratepayers.
The Legislature moved forward on solar because South Carolinians want clean-energy growth. A recent poll found that 82 percent of South Carolinians support the development of clean-energy resources such as solar power, with 87 percent of African-Americans expressing support. It is rare for a policy to see such strong bipartisan and public support.
This can be a sunny year for South Carolina as we harness the sun and reduce costs to everyone.
Lonnie Randolph Jr.
President, S.C. NAACP