South Carolina Regulators Affirm a Clean, Collaborative Path Forward in the Southeast

Last month, the South Carolina Public Service Commission (PSC) took precedent-setting steps to protect solar customers’ rights and ensure that rooftop solar plays a growing, influential role in the energy grid of the future.

The PSC issued decisions in two separate proceedings:

  • In the first, the commission chose a methodology for evaluating the benefits and potential costs that solar has on the grid.
  • In the second, the commission rejected a set of new fees on solar power from Dominion Energy South Carolina and adopted a new set of fair rates for rooftop solar owners in Dominion’s service territory.

Both proceedings were made possible by 2019’s Energy Freedom Act, a bipartisan bill that was unanimously passed by the South Carolina legislature. In order for the Energy Freedom Act to achieve its full impact on the South Carolina grid, it’s critical that regulators implement it in a forward-looking way. That’s why these proceedings matter.

In the cost-benefit analysis, the commission affirmed an approach proposed by a group of clean energy and environmental groups, including Vote Solar, the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Upstate Forever, North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association, and the Solar Energy Industries Association. The commission’s decision will open the door for solar to provide services to the grid and be credited with the benefits it provides to everyone. The commission’s chosen methodology shares much in terms of identifying benefits with the settlement that Duke Energy, Vote Solar, and other parties reached last year.

Dominion Energy South Carolina took a very different approach to its proposed rates for solar customers. Instead of working with clean energy and environmental groups on a common-sense solution, Dominion’s proposal would have charged customers over $700 in needless fees every year, just for connecting their panels to the grid. Vote Solar, alongside other environmental and clean energy groups, opposed Dominion’s decision. The people of South Carolina opposed it, too. Hundreds of South Carolinians, including over 150 Vote Solar members, showed up at a public hearing, overwhelmingly asking the commission to reject Dominion’s punitive and predatory proposal.

We were thrilled to learn that the commission sided with South Carolina ratepayers and the clean energy groups, rejecting Dominion’s proposal and instead allowing solar customers to participate without paying steep fees. In doing so, the commission protected Dominion Energy customers’ right to go solar.

I am encouraged by not only the substance of the decisions, but by the collaboration and exchange of ideas that led to the commission’s orders.The rulings acknowledge that olar in South Carolina is a win-win-win. It creates cleaner, healthier energy, generates good jobs, and reduces costs for everyone. When we acknowledge those shared benefits and work together, we can make progress quickly. The Public Service Commission’s leadership last month shows just how far collaboration can take us —and why a selfish approach is a dead end.

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