South Carolina lawmakers must make it easier for alternative energy users to tap into the grid, according to a new report by the state’s Energy Advisory Council.
Lawmakers tapped the council to produce the report , which was released on Feb. 3 to the State Regulation of Public Utilities Review Committee.
“Distributed generation” was the report’s main topic, and is defined as the production of energy by outside a utility company but still connected to the grid (think: solar panels on a residential home).
According to the report, distributed generation creates problems for utility companies because there is no system to buy surplus energy to put back into the grid, and there is no set way for a user to only use the company’s energy when the alternative source is not available.
The Coastal Conservation League contributed to the report.
“Solar is now competitive with traditional resources. We’re going to see a lot more of it in the future and it’s incumbent upon our elected officials to respond to both the opportunities and the challenges with changed to our current policy framework that makes sense for this state. We’re not going to be able to continue business as usual and accommodate this resource, we’ve got to make changes. And if we do it right then solar is going to be a really good thing for South Carolina,” the conservation group’s Energy and Climate Director Hamilton Davis told South Carolina Radio Network. “Right now we are working with the utilities and with the solar industries to come up with a new piece of legislation yet to be introduced that will move the ball forward significantly in the next few years on solar in South Carolina.”
But while contributors to the report urge action, one lawmaker on the committee said studying South Carolina’s neighbors and doing things right comes first.
“We need to do it right the first time. We need to learn from others,” state Rep. Michael Forrester, R-Spartanburg, said. “There was some mention in this report that we might could look at other states. There are some that have probably done some good things and some that have done some bad things, but look at other states and see what are some best practices and let’s build our network right the first time.” Forrester is a former vice president of Piedmont Natural Gas Co.’s South Carolina operations.
“Down the road, we figure this out, it will allow people to go on. If they want to do solar, they still have backup but… we will figure out what the cost should be (for the backup). Everyone will benefit and it won’t be a burden on any one ratepayer.”
One lawmaker has proposed legislation this session that would encourage utility companies to lease solar panels to customers.