Signed into law by Governor Haley in 2014, Act 236 is a consensus bill developed by electric cooperatives, investor-owned utilities, solar power proponents, and conservationists to open the way for more distributed energy production in South Carolina.
Taken together, the bill’s key provisions – giving customers the freedom to lease solar, permitting utilities to introduce distributed energy programs, and ensuring equitable net metering rules – are complementary approaches that will expand customer options and increase cost-effective renewable power in South Carolina.
In December utilities, solar businesses, and conservation groups reached a settlement agreement on updated net energy metering rules for Duke Energy and SCE&G. The settlement agreement, which has been filed with the South Carolina Public Service Commission, is a critical step forward in implementing Act 236.
Although this issue has given rise to extensive controversy between solar supporters and utilities across the country, South Carolina stakeholders have once again been able to find common ground in efforts to expand solar energy opportunities for businesses and homeowners.
Rooftop solar panels produce power that is used by a home or business, but they can also push electricity back onto the grid to be used by other utility customers. Net energy metering is the term used for crediting that excess solar power at the retail electricity rate. Under the settlement, residential and commercial utility customers that install solar panels on their rooftops before 2021 will receive full retail credit for any excess power that flows back onto the electric grid and will be eligible to remain on this rate until December 31, 2025 without any solar specific charges or fees.
The settlement also establishes a methodology for valuing solar power for purposes of utility recovery of lost revenues, if any, which will be recoverable by the utilities through distributed energy resource programs that were authorized by Act 236. In 2020 the Public Service Commission will reevaluate the solar policies included in the settlement and will consider any appropriate changes at that time.
Full implementation of Act 236 is expected by this summer and will enable even South Carolinians of modest means to access solar energy. Distributed energy resources like solar are expected to enhance grid security, increase consumer independence, promote market competition, and reduce health costs from pollution.