Opinion Extra

Increasing SC solar options would attract jobs, enhance economic development

As our state continues to deal with the fallout of the failed V.C. Summer nuclear project, South Carolina legislators are working on a bill that creates more options for energy customers to source clean energy for their businesses. House Bill 3659 would allow the opportunity for greater choice for everyone from large big box stores to manufacturers that drive our state’s economy.

It’s time for our state to offer the clean energy programs that attract jobs and economic investment to South Carolina. Over the past five years, Spartanburg has dominated the Upstate in economic development and has attracted nearly a quarter of the state’s total economic investment. More often than not, many of the companies looking to locate new facilities here inquire about the availability of clean energy for their proposed plants, distribution centers, and headquarters.

These companies are asking these same questions of the other states they are evaluating. As things stand, South Carolina does not have great answers to these questions. If South Carolina wants to be attractive to new businesses, the availability of clean energy is something that can either be a competitive advantage, or a reason a top tier company chooses another state. These companies seek to enter into long-term solar contracts to lock in the rates that solar developers are able to provide.

Many of the companies are household names and already participate in similar programs across the country. Also, thousands of acres classified as “agricultural” are providing little to no revenue to local governments. Activating this land for solar is a higher use and will provide many of our poor, rural communities with a new source of revenue. Furthermore, the marketability of South Carolina is enhanced by a commitment to alternative sources of energy as more companies are asking about our state’s environmental positions. These reasons, among many others, are why it’s time for our state to offer energy programs that attract jobs and economic investment.

Fortunately, our representatives in the state legislature have recognized this need and addressed this urgent issue in the current session. Earlier this year, the House passed Bill 3659 with a 110 -0 vote, which will make it easier for businesses and consumers to take control of their energy. Now, the Senate should do the same.

Allen Smith
Allen Smith/Spartanburg Chamber of Commerce Photo provided

Smart energy policy like this is an economic winner for South Carolina. In order for South Carolina to stay competitive and to attract businesses, policymakers need to remove barriers to economic development by enacting House Bill 3659. This legislation would expand investment by attracting new companies to the state, and injecting more tax revenue into the budget. Ultimately, that brings us more jobs, better government services, from health and safety to education and infrastructure, in addition to cleaner energy.

South Carolina businesses thrive when they are able to innovate. House Bill 3659 will give them that opportunity and, in the process, grow economic opportunities across the state.

Smith is president and CEO of the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce/Economic Futures Group