I am a senior citizen, and I recently had the opportunity to speak before the S.C. House of Representatives’ Labor, Commerce and Industry Subcommittee in support of House Bill 3425, “Energy System Freedom of Ownership Act,” which would provide a way for private businesses to finance renewable energy.
I live in nonprofit congregate senior housing in Charleston. We have two buildings on our campus, one for middle income seniors and a HUD Section 8 subsidized housing for low income seniors.
In the nonprofit building, residents cover the entire cost of the facility through rents. We receive no governmental assistance, state or federal.
In 2011 we residents of the nonprofit had a 14 percent rent increase. Utility costs are the second highest line item in our budget. The building’s utility costs are running $240,000 per year.
Any saving on this line item would help control the energy costs, which would directly inure to the benefit of the residents. Likewise it would benefit all taxpayers by reducing the amount of the federal subsidy for the HUD Section 8 building. We seniors want to be part of the solution to help control the costs of housing for seniors, but the Legislature must act to make this possible.
The fact is that SCE&G spent millions of dollars to provide a solar system to the Boeing factory in North Charleston. I will acknowledge that was a good thing for SCE&G to do, and it was good for South Carolina.
But now SCE&G has the audacity to speak in opposition to the pending H. 3425. Its position is that the bill is not ready for consideration and that SCE&G has convened a study committee whose report will not be completed this year, meaning that the bill should not come up for vote this year.
The committee voted to wait for the study. “Delay” is legislative speak for “kill the bill.”
Surely SCE&G’s stockholders and customers have the right to expect SCE&G to have done its due diligence prior to spending multimillion dollars for the system at Boeing.
But SCE&G opposes legislation that would make the very same solar energy that SCE&G made available to Boeing available to other entities in South Carolina such as churches, charities, schools, senior housing and many other worthwhile organizations — entities which contribute to the quality of life enjoyed here and touch the lives of each and every resident in South Carolina.
We are not asking SCE&G to finance the solar energy systems for these entities, simply that SCE&G not oppose legislation that, if passed, would enable private businesses to provide the financing.
There are business models in other states which indicate this to be a profitable enterprise. There are S.C. buinesses which have the financial ability and acumen as well as the civic commitment to provide the opportunity to make solar energy available in South Carolina.
The use of renewable energy is economically advantageous — it will attract more businesses to South Carolina, create jobs and, by utilizing our great technical school system, provide South Carolina with another trained labor force.
It will help reduce our dependency on imported fossil fuels. Socially and environmentally it is the right thing to do for South Carolina —what’s not to love?