Utilities scramble at last second to defeat popular solar bill in South Carolina

south carolina solar net metering

Less than a week after the South Carolina House passed House Bill 4421 (the Electric Consumer Bill of Rights Act) with bipasrtisan support, the bill stalled after utilities raised a technical point that required the House to approve the legislation by a two-thirds majority. In today’s vote, the House voted for the bill, 61-44, exceeding a simple majority but falling short of the new two-thirds requirement.

H. 4421 would have lifted a restrictive 2% cap on the state’s successful net metering program. Net metering makes sure solar customers get fair credit on their utility bills for the valuable solar power they send to the energy grid, which lowers costs for all consumers by reducing reliance on expensive utility power plants.

The Post Courier says SCANA and Duke Energy, the state’s largest power providers, “fought vociferously against the bill, arguing that it would force non-solar customers to subsidize homeowners with panels.” FYI: South Carolinians pay some of the highest utility bills in the country.

An amendment added to the measure sought to undercut that argument by forcing the utilities to eat the costs of the subsidy rather than passing it on to consumers. That would amount to about $1.2 million in additional costs for Duke Energy and $4.4 million for SCANA, according to regulatory filings. Several lawmakers on the House floor pointed out that the CEOs of each of those companies make significantly more money than that in annual total compensation.

Following is a statement from Vote Solar’s Southeast Regional Director, Thad Culley:

“After finding such strong bipartisan support from both lawmakers and voters, it’s disappointing that – with this procedural stunt – the interests of a couple monopoly utilities outweighed the people of South Carolina who overwhelmingly want support solar energy options and property rights. Make no mistake, this puts thousands of local solar jobs and real energy bill savings for consumers at risk.”