The state Public Service Commission approved the incentives earlier this month for South Carolina Electric & Gas and Duke Energy to offer an offsetting credit for customers who use their own panels to provide energy for the grid. Those customers would then be able to use that credit when they rely on the utility’s grid at night or during overcast days. The process is known as “net metering.”
“You can use those credits to offset your bills,” state Office of Regulatory Staff director C. Dukes Scott told South Carolina Radio Network. “So, for every kilowatt hour you put on the grid, you get a kilowatt hour you can use later.”
SCE&G, Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress have been offering a 1-to-1 net metering match under the Distributed Energy Resources Program Act that passed the Statehouse last year. But the Public Service Commission last week signed off on new plans that would offer friendlier incentives for solar panel owners.
SCE&G, for example, is offering customers a higher value credit for each kilowatt hour saved. A typical homeowner would save about 20 cents per kilowatt hour generated, according to Office of Regulatory Staff officials. Some nonprofit customers could save up to 22 cents per hour. Duke Energy is offering a dollar per watt rebate for its solar customers.
Relatively few customers would be affected at the start, as Duke says it has only 200 customers currently using net metering and SCE&G another 300. Only those panels installed after January 1, 2015 would be eligible and typical systems cost about $25,000 to install, according to Solarize South Carolina’s community outreach coordinator Sara Hummel Rajca. She said the typical system pays for itself after 8 years.
“To anyone who’s been thinking about solar, wanting to go solar, or wanting to save on their energy bills, signing up earlier is better than later,” she told South Carolina Radio Network. “Because as more people sign up… (the utilities) are going to reduce the incentives.”
Santee-Cooper customers are not affected, as the Public Service Commission does not have oversight of the state-owned utility. Local power cooperatives are also not covered by the orders.
No date is set for either utility’s program to begin. But SCE&G told The State newspaper that it plans to start within 90 days.