Opinion Extra

This is the conservative path out of our nuclear nightmare

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Over the past few months, South Carolinians have followed along as detail after detail has emerged around the debacle at the V.C. Summer nuclear plants. Shockingly, we learned that ratepayers have contributed billions of dollars to build a power plant that will never produce a watt of power.

We also learned that rate increase after rate increase was approved by energy regulators at the Public Service Commission. We watched big power companies try to protect the very law that made this debacle possible: the Base Load Review Act.

Most of all, South Carolinians have learned that we need more free-market competition and energy choices as part of the solution.

Energy choice is inherently conservative, and as a conservative, I support the free market driven by innovation. Our founding fathers also believed that we, as citizens, could chart our own course and improve our lot in life.

We’re able to do this in many facets of life but not usually when it comes to our power bills. As ratepayers, most of us continue to pay our electricity bill without much thought about the rates we are charged.

MooreMatt18V
Matt Moore

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Luckily, South Carolinians do have an option to reduce their rates. It’s called solar energy. A few years ago, the Legislature passed and Gov. Nikki Haley signed Act 236, which included “net metering.” Net metering is a policy that provides consumers who have solar panels with credit for power they generate and send to the grid and their neighbors. Essentially, it allows homeowners to spin their electricity meters backwards for a change. This law has created thousands of new jobs in South Carolina and saved customers money each month.

The lesser-known energy crisis of 2018 is that state law caps net metering at 2 percent of the energy each utility sells. Those caps place an arbitrary limit on the amount of homegrown solar we can have in South Carolina.

There is nothing conservative about trade barriers, monopolies and artificial caps.

When we hit the caps, it will severely limit access to solar energy by undercutting the economic value of solar for homeowners. Additionally, it will bring our state’s growing solar economy to a grinding halt and put thousands of good-quality, local jobs at risk.

Our ability choose where our power comes from and get fair credit for the energy we produce is an important piece of South Carolina’s energy future. We need to remove the cap on South Carolina’s net metering program by passing H.4421. This will grow the economy, protect thousands of jobs and create much-needed energy choice for our state.

It’s particularly important for South Carolina to take action on solar in the wake of the federal government’s short-sighted decision to levy a 30 percent tariff on solar panels, as well as a tariff on washing machine parts that will hurt Samsung, which just opened a plant in Newberry. These two tariffs put hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs at risk.

There is nothing conservative about trade barriers, monopolies and artificial caps. I’m hopeful that state lawmakers will continue to remove artificial barriers and allow solar energy to thrive as an option for all South Carolinians.

However, citizens must get involved in discussions about our energy future and demand realistic options for producing their own power. Now is the time to scrap the solar cap.

Mr. Moore is chairman of the Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition and former chairman of the S.C. Republican Party; contact him at matt@palmettoconservativesolarcoalition.com.

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