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How Beaufort County helped bring a bright new day for overburdened SC energy consumers

Video: How to slash your power bill by using solar panels

Retired engineer Bruce Duckett, of the Biloxi, Miss., area, shares his experience with solar panel installation. His panels generate about a third of his power needs, cutting his electrical bill by that much. He financed the system with no money d
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Retired engineer Bruce Duckett, of the Biloxi, Miss., area, shares his experience with solar panel installation. His panels generate about a third of his power needs, cutting his electrical bill by that much. He financed the system with no money d

With just a day remaining in the session, the South Carolina Senate passed the bold, bipartisan Energy Freedom Act, a law that will lift the cap on rooftop solar, encourage investment in large-scale solar farms, and provide transparency and accountability in how South Carolinians obtain electricity.

The South Carolina Senate kept the sun from going down on this growing industry.

At a Statehouse rally for the bill in April, state Sen. Tom Davis of Beaufort said, “If solar can generate power for cheaper, this is about allowing them to do that.”

In the wake of the failure of the V.C. Summer plant north of Columbia and its impact on power bills for South Carolinians, South Carolina energy markets need more transparency and competition. The Energy Freedom Act provides clean energy alternatives to make that happen.

We can thank Davis, his colleagues in the Senate, and state Representatives for unanimous support in both chambers. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Peter McCoy of Charleston, led the collaborative effort — along with Rep. Bill Sandifer of Seneca — that will result in more consumer choices and relief from high power bills.

Bipartisan progress on clean energy like this is rare in Washington, but in Columbia, our lawmakers are finding pragmatic solutions that work.

The Energy Freedom Act will enable South Carolinians to continue taking advantage of the cost savings from rooftop solar, and our state’s environment and economy will benefit from the bill’s requirement that utilities consider renewable energy options in future planning.

Thousands of solar jobs will stay in the state, and that sector will continue to grow.

Less power will come from burning coal, which means less smog and soot in our air and less coal ash in our rivers.

Solar is good news for South Carolina’s rural counties, too. Charleston-based Southern Current has committed $17.4 million in Jasper County and $14 million in Hampton County.

The new law provides guidance to the Public Service Commission, which will start hearings soon to implement some of the details in the Energy Freedom Act. This seven-member body makes important decisions on our power bills and what sort of new power plants utilities can build, and the Commission takes its duty to protect the public interest seriously. It called a recent request for higher power bills from Duke energy “tone deaf,” and has shown a renewed interest in promoting cost savings through renewable energy and customer energy efficiency.

The Coastal Conservation League has long advocated for more accountability, transparency, and competition in the energy sector.

A decade ago, our organization fought a proposed Pee Dee coal plant. We worked hard to support the passage of Act 236, the landmark solar bill that passed in 2014 and opened up our state to the solar expansion we have experienced in the last five years.

The Energy Freedom Act will continue that growth, while also encouraging structural reforms that address some of the failures that led to billions of wasted dollars at V.C. Summer.

The bill will head next to the desk of Gov. Henry McMaster, who is expected to sign it, and then on to the Public Service Commission.

We commend Senator Davis and the entire Beaufort County delegation for its support of clean, affordable, and renewable energy.

Laura Cantral is executive director of the Coastal Conservation League based in Charleston, with an office in Beaufort.
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