Get solar energy out of the dark
South Carolina’s electric cooperatives must have something against sunshine. They don’t want much of it being used to produce power in the state. And they don’t want it illuminating information and influencing public opinion about solar power.
The S.C. Public Service Commission announced in June that it would hold a public workshop on Sept. 12 to talk about solar power issues. State residents had been pushing for the PSC to update its rules, considered among the country’s most unfriendly to alternative power. Solar power advocates have been looking forward to making their case.
But the PSC has cancelled the hearing, as it bowed to the wishes of the rural electric cooperatives of South Carolina.
The cooperatives, which feel threatened by solar power, say a public forum is premature. Maybe for them.
The Legislature’s Public Utilities Review Committee is studying the issue and will complete a report (with help from the cooperatives) at the end of December. That would be a better time for public discourse, they say.
Really? Let’s have the conversation after the report is finished? Let’s not let the analysis get complicated by what consumers know and want?
Surely the legislative committee knows, or will learn, that South Carolina has some of the most stringent laws against solar power in the country, but some of the highest utility rates in the South.
Surely it knows, or will learn, that Furman University, which has made a name for itself as a green campus, is not allowed to add more solar panels. But the law says it produces enough alternative power.
Surely it’s no secret to them that businesses, too, are interested in alternative power, in addition to traditional power. Boeing insisted on installing multiple solar panels at its North Charleston facility.
And surely the committee will hear all the utilities’ perspectives on solar power whenever it might convene the discussion.
But what the committee might not know is that many South Carolinians are strongly in favor of solar power. They like the idea of lowering their power bills and reducing emissions.
They want to take advantage of opportunities to lease panels, which are too expensive for most homeowners to buy outright.
They don’t like South Carolina appearing obdurate, ignorant and unconcerned about the environment, while kowtowing to pressure from utilities instead of looking out for residents and commercial consumers.
They don’t believe utilities when they say too much reliance on solar power would threaten their business or raise rates for traditional power.
Other states across the country manage to keep producing power from coal, natural gas and nuclear resources while expanding solar power. Why not South Carolina?
South Carolinians deserve the opportunity they were promised to begin the public discussion on solar energy. And members of the legislative committee studying the issue need to hear what thee public has to say.
Committee members need to hear it before they prepare their report to the Legislature.