On average, Boston enjoys 200 sunny days a year. Charleston enjoys 230 — an additional month of sunny days.
But Boston is light years ahead of Charleston — and South Carolina in general — in the area of solar energy.
That needs to change.
Sadly, unless the powers that be grow a backbone and stand up to the powerful utilities that have monopolies in South Carolina, the state will continue to lose out on a ready source of sustainable, non-polluting energy.
On today’s Commentary page, columnist Renée Loth describes numerous ways that solar energy is thriving in Boston.
The key factor? A supportive government.
Where the industry is growing in Boston due to tax breaks, incentives, rebates, user-friendly laws and scaled-back bureaucracy, the industry is stagnant here because of a hostile regulatory environment.
For example, companies that lease solar panels to individuals and small businesses that can’t afford to purchase them, are not allowed to do business in South Carolina. The utilities here see it as a threat, and they tend to get what they want, regardless of what consumers say.
Furman University in Greenville, which is making a name for itself as a green college, would like to increase its solar energy collection, but is prevented from doing so. And Furman, in addition to using the solar power that is generated, uses the solar program to teach students.
Perhaps people here would get more charged up about solar energy if they had available, as Boston does, an interactive tool that estimates solar potential roof-to-roof and estimates how much money and emissions solar panels would save.
South Carolina utilities have agreed to reconsider the issue over the summer.
As more states encourage solar power, and more of their residents and businesses install panels, the data should be easy to come by, and should not be so controversial as utilities want to suggest.
And if opening the minds of the utilities and their government regulators continues to be elusive, residents should find their voice and demand of their legislators the cost-savings and pollution-reduction benefits of solar energy.
Those benefits would not come at the expense of traditional utilities. Solar is never expected to provide all necessary energy — or even a prominent share of energy. Utilities are exaggerating the threat of competition.
Boston, a large city in a densely populated part of the country with tremendous demands for energy is finding ways to encourage solar power without damaging the business of traditional utilities.
Surely South Carolina can do the same.
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