Solar Power Rubber Hits The Road, South Carolina Edition (#CleanTechnica Interview)

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Last week, a major solar power advocacy campaign kicked off in South Carolina with official support from State Senator Tom Davis. A member of the Republican party who won his seat unopposed in 2016, Senator Davis represents a coastal population that includes historic sites threatened by sea level rise.

If you’d like to see for yourself, good luck with that! The US government agency responsible for mapping the risk of sea level rise, NOAA, is offline right now due to President* Trump’s government shutdown.

Accelerating The Low Carbon Economy Of The Future

Maps or no maps, the risk is real and so is the need to accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy. Last week, CleanTechnica asked Senator Davis to offer some additional thoughts on his support for the new PV campaign, and he graciously provided us with a single but thorough answer:

I am filing next Tuesday a bill titled the “Energy Freedom Act” that contains the following six sections:

Increases transparency

Right to manage energy usage in order to lower bills, without penalty or discrimination

Energy rates must be transparent, easy to understand and control

Customers have a right to obtain and use data collected by a utility on their individual energy consumption

Modifies rooftop solar/net metering programs

Utilities must file a new rate, “successor tariff,” for customers who install rooftop solar within 30 days of bill passage

The successor tariff will create monthly netting – energy production netted against energy consumption on a monthly basis

Any excess energy production exported onto the grid will be paid to customer at Commission-approved Value of Distributed Energy Resource

Customers may carry any excess dollar value over to the next month to decrease their utility bill

Explicitly says non-solar customers do not have to pay for lost revenue that a utility incurs due to customers that install solar – i.e., ensures no subsidy

Removes existing barriers to solar and allows it to compete

Removes the solar leasing cap and other references to the cap

Creates a separate Commission proceeding to review and approve rates and terms provided to large scale solar facilities

Ensures rates paid to large scale solar facilities are reflective of costs a utility would have incurred to produce a unit of energy on their own

Ensures contract terms are reasonable, non-discriminatory, and in compliance with the law

Improves rights with respect to utility delays, contract negotiations, and uncompensated curtailment

Streamlines contract process by allowing commission to approve a template power purchase form

Launches voluntary renewable energy program for large energy users

Creates a new, voluntary program for large energy consumers to negotiate and contract directly with a renewable energy supplier under fair, fixed terms

Allows a large energy consumer the opportunity for savings on utility bill over term of contract

Only participating customers pay for program costs; no cost is shifted to other customers

Establishes a neighborhood community solar program

Creates a program for low-income customers to subscribe to a portion of output from a large scale solar facility and receive a credit on their utility bill, utilizing competitive auction to derive price

Includes a performance bonus incentive for utilities that receive full subscription to this program, enhanced rate of return on program costs

Modernizes integrated resource planning

Extends the Commission-approved 2018 Dominion Energy/SC Solar Business Alliance solar settlement to all South Carolina investor-owned utilities

Creates independent evaluation for long term energy planning and allows independent power producers to compete, on price, for the opportunity to build new generation

— Tom

Got all that?

What’s Missing From This Solar Power Picture?

Not much, actually. References to sea level rise, climate change, and climate action are missing from the rundown, but otherwise it seems like a pretty thorough accounting of the elements needed to accelerate solar industry growth in South Carolina.

In addition, the measure addresses a significant social equity issue in the rooftop solar power field. The bill will include rate protection for non-solar customers, and it creates a risk-free opportunity for low income rate payers to take advantage of low cost solar.

Solar Power And Sea Level Rise

If you can spot any holes in the proposed Energy Freedom Act as far as solar power goes, drop us a note in the comment thread.

In the meantime, it’s worth noting some items in Davis’s background that indicate an awareness of climate change impacts, especially rising sea levels. Here’s a snippet from his Senate bio:

Former member of Board of Directors: Historic Beaufort Foundation, Greater Beaufort Chamber of Commerce, Beaufort County Planning Board, Lowcountry Council of Governments, Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority, and South Carolina States Ports Authority…

Beaufort, South Carolina is a coastal city that is home to dozens of sites on the National Register of Historic Places.

Billed as a “true hotbed for history,” Beaufort is also a potential hotbed for climate impacts.

In 2015, the Beaufort and Port Royal Sea Level Rise Task Force charted the risks and noted that many residents were already aware of the real and potential impacts of sea level rise on coastal properties.

A 2016 study from the Union of Concerned Scientists also drew attention to the risk of climate impacts on two important military installations in the area, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and Marine Corps Air Base Beaufort.

Just last August, our friends over at weighed in with this observation:

Military leaders in South Carolina are preparing for rising sea levels while partisans dispute whether it’s the effect of global warming.

The Post and Courier of Charleston reports the Marine Corps training grounds on Parris Island need a sea wall, roads near Charleston’s Coast Guard stations are swamped when heavy rain adds to high tides and stone reinforcements were installed to protect a runway from erosion at the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort.

That’s just one area. Sea level rise is a concern all along the South Carolina coast and elsewhere on the eastern seaboard.

The 100 Day Clean Energy Campaign

If anyone is casting about for a way to support our troops, supporting solar power would be an effective way to start.

The new South Carolina PV campaign kicked off last week under the name, “100 Day Clean Energy Campaign.” The Solar Energy Industries Association is the lead organizer and CleanTechnica is reaching out to them for an update next week, so stay tuned for more on that.

Meanwhile, the Energy Freedom Act is not just a one-off for Davis. A recent profile of the Senator in noted that he has also engaged in other clean tech battles on the CleanTechnica radar, from offshore oil drilling to local bans on plastic bags.

Davis introduces an earlier iteration of the Energy Freedom Act last year to no avail, so look out for some real fireworks this time around as the 2019 legislative session heats up.

Follow me on Twitter.

*Developing story.

Image (screenshot): via

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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

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