South Carolina's sunny climate, a magnet for visitors, is close to paying off in a new way. Solar energy, long under-used and under-appreciated here, received a boost Wednesday from the Senate.
South Carolina needs such a boost. Regulations have choked efforts to increase solar power. Until recently, the utilities have balked at loosening rules for fear more solar power would mean less profit for them.
And the utilities, with their powerful lobbies, tend to get their way.
Several months ago, however, environmentalists and utilities began talking about solar power, whether it should grow and, if so, how. The public had been pushing for permission to expand the non-polluting industry.
The compromise law, which the Senate approved by a large margin, would increase the solar limits from 7 megawatts to 300 megawatts.
It also would require private utilities to acquire a moderate percentage of solar power by 2021; allow big box stores, universities and others to add more solar; and permit companies to lease solar panels to homeowners and businesses unable or unwilling to purchase them.
In addition to being an environmentally friendly move, the law could create jobs and allow property owners to save some money.
It's not perfect. Finding help for churches, schools and other non-profits to afford rooftop solar systems remains to be addressed.
And the legislation doesn't provide financial help, as it exists in other states, for homeowners wanting to install solar panels.
Nevertheless, it's a large step in the right direction.
Now the bill goes to the House of Representatives. But with the utilities on board, House members are more likely to pass it by the end of the session.
And if they do, and Gov. Nikki Haley signs the bill, it would be a bright day in South Carolina.
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