In South Carolina, Black state legislators have been instrumental in passage through both the state House of Representatives and Senate of new legislation enabling The Palmetto State to become a more active participant in the renewable energy sector.
The Energy System Freedom of Ownership Act passed the Senate with an 42-0 vote, and is headed to the desk of Governor Nikki Haley to be signed in to law. Five members of the House Judiciary Committee – Senators Marlon Kimpson, John L. Scott, Gerald Malloy, Kevin Johnson, and Karl Allen – helped advocate for the bill, which will stimulate job growth and provide consumers greater affordable energy options by spurring the expansion of the solar sector. House Representatives Harold Mitchell, Chair of the South Carolina Black Legislative Caucus, Todd Rutherford, Leader of the House Democratic Caucus, and Gilda Cobb-Hunter were active participants in the process as well.
As Senator Kimpson noted recently, the Energy Freedom of Ownership Act “addresses potential inequities by ensuring that customers who generate their own electricity pay their share of the cost of maintaining the electric grid and utilities pay a fair price for solar power generated by their customers.” It also “empowers consumers by allowing them to lease solar panels to use at their homes.”
This legislation, which is a compromise effort resulting from the work of consumer advocates, public utilities, environmentalists, and solar developers, alike, creates a framework that enables South Carolina to diversify its energy production – key to a state known principally for relying on nuclear energy and coal.
Today, with roughly 7 megawatts of solar power installed in South Carolina, the state lags behind others in production from this ever-abundant, clean energy source. Once the bill is signed in to law by Governor Nikki Haley, however, the state’s solar energy supply is expected to increase to more than 300 megawatts. Increases in solar farms and installations of rooftop solar panels are expected to both boost economic activity in this space and create new cost savings and energy efficiencies for South Carolinians.
Leadership from local Urban League affiliates and legal justice organizations have also been vital to the process of helping refine South Carolina’s solar energy future by making sure that what’s best for South Carolina’s consumers figured more prominently in the discussions around this bill than did the interests of solar companies based out West.
Across the country, solar proliferation is becoming an increasingly hot topic among Black leadership. Earlier this year, the National Black Caucus of State Legislators passed a resolution Urging Equitable Distribution of Electricity Grid System Costs which provides a templates for how states can increase solar production and ensure that those least able to afford the transition to renewable energy are not made to bear the financial brunt for those who can. The legislation that just passed does exactly that and creates a model for legislation that could be adopted nationally.