Let the solar power shine in
“Power to the people” could be the motto today for something altogether different from its anti-establishment roots in the 1960s and ’70s. It could mean solar leasing.
The issue of solar panel leasing could use some boosting here. South Carolina is one of three states assigned an “F” for being unfriendly on that issue, as determined by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Inc. in 2012.
Sixteen state senators (eight Republicans and eight Democrats) are supporting a bill that could make a big difference in that grade, and in the lives and pocketbooks of energy users.
It would pave the way for companies that lease solar panels to do business in South Carolina where they are now unwelcome.
That would give residents who are unable to purchase expensive solar panels an affordable way to generate solar power, and thus lower their power bills.
In addition, the federal government is offering financial incentives that make it even more doable for people of average means.
Andrew Curry, on today’s Commentary page, describes how solar power has taken hold in Germany. The structure of the German power industry is vastly different from that in the United States.
But the fact that solar energy is making a significant difference in a country known for its “long, dark winters” is an invitation for South Carolina to take advantage of its year-round sun.
The main holdup has been the powerful lobby of electricity providers, including SCE&G, and the legislators in their thrall.
The utility companies worry that people generating their own solar energy would chisel away at their business. And, they point out correctly, South Carolina’s ability to lure jobs here depends on the state having reliable electricity.
The fallacy of their argument is the fact that solar energy will always be a tiny nibble compared to electricity providers’ perennial feasting.
The utilities are pushing for a delay for more study about solar panel leasing and what its impact might be.
It’s difficult to understand why an industry that operates successfully in numerous other states, whose well-being also relies on a steady source of electricity, is such a mystery.
No one knew what the future would bring in the early days of the Internet or cell phones, and both have been transformative.
The solar panel leasing bill, now in the Senate’s judiciary committee, warrants serious consideration now, not later. Federal financial incentives are good only through 2016. And every year the Legislature drags its heels about making solar leasing legal and available is a year that consumers miss out on a trend benefiting people worldwide and benefiting the environment at the same time.
David Roberts, a staff writer for Grist, which publishes news and commentary about the environment, calls it “democratization of energy” since more people are producing their own energy and taking the power into their own hands.
“Utilities are going to have to get used to power markets behaving more like actual markets,” Mr. Roberts said.
And that sounds like something state legislators of all stripes should welcome.