Last year, I was the first person hired by Sunrun, a solar company in South Carolina. Just a few months later, we have hundreds of people working across the state.
Along with other solar companies, South Carolina now has close to 2,000 solar workers. Solar went from a nascent industry to a flourishing new economic driver, with more people installing solar this year than in all previous years combined. And we’ve only just scratched the surface of our potential.
So how can other states in the Southeast see this kind of growth? Put the right policies in place.
This week, lawmakers in South Carolina must pass a bill, SB 626, to ensure that there is no tax increase on South Carolina homes and businesses that produce their own energy. No successful solar energy market in the country assesses property taxes on families and businesses who choose to produce their own power. Property taxes on solar are unduly burdensome and will limit solar job growth if not corrected via SB 626. South Carolina shouldn’t be the first to tax solar out of the state!
Policymakers should also support retail rate fair credit for self generation. Two years ago, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley did just that by supporting unanimously-passed legislation to bring net metering to the state. This created a market. Suddenly, South Carolina could compete for new solar jobs and generate its own clean energy.
Solar is not a Democratic or Republican issue. Conservatives, like myself, support free market solutions like net metering and solar leasing. Even utility-backed polls show that more than 80 percent of voters support net metering. It makes sense. Homeowners should have the right to self-generate and be given fair credit for the power they send to their neighbors. The rest of the country is looking to South Carolina as a free market leader in energy choice. It’s important that we continue to move in the direction of more choice and competition.
Unfortunately, utilities across the country keep digging in against pro-solar policies and consumer choice. And in state house after state house, it all comes down to competition. It’s why utilities in Arizona are trying to regulate batteries and utilities in Florida are blocking stronger energy efficiency standards. It’s also why Florida utilities have even spent millions of dollars to try and defeat solar choice in a ballot initiative. It’s important that those battles don’t come to South Carolina. Leaders must stand strong for lower energy rates and more competition.
I have faith in South Carolina. We are a people that welcome new opportunity and job creation. I believe that our lawmakers will listen to their constituents and provide consumer choice.
Join me in calling your legislators this week. Tell them to pass SB 626 and continue to uphold strong net metering policies. South Carolina lawmakers can continue to act as models for the rest of the Southeast.
Tyson Grinstead is the Senior Manager of Public Policy at Sunrun in Columbia, South Carolina.
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