South Carolina Solar Rejoices as Energy Freedom Act Signed into Law

Solar workers and industry advocates across The Palmetto State have been celebrating in the wake of the Energy Freedom Act, which was signed into law by South Carolina Republican Governor Henry McMaster in May.

The bill’s passage marks a new era for South Carolina’s solar industry as the state pivots toward fully embracing solar energy. Both the House and Senate voted unanimously for the Energy Freedom Act, signaling a strong push from conservatives in the long-standing Republican state.

Governor McMaster signed the Energy Freedom Act into Law
S.C. Governor McMaster signing the Energy Freedom Act into law (Photo: Southern Current)

The cap on homes that can install rooftop solar panels will be lifted under the new bill. Now new homeowners will be able to take advantage of retail-rate net metering, which has been a hit among South Carolinians. Net metering allows homeowners to sell the excess power generated from private home solar panels to commercial utilities at a competitive rate.

Aside from expanding net metering in the state, the Energy Freedom Act will allow larger energy consumers to work with renewable energy suppliers directly, making it even easier for industrial-scale consumers to utilize solar power in their operations. The bill will also establish a community solar program that accelerate solar access in low-income neighborhoods.

Republican State Senator Tom Davis helped write the bill, and he was instrumental in its passage every step of the way. Senator Davis embodies the pragmatic, business-first attitude that many of his fellow conservatives have begun to adopt after witnessing the economic good and energy security associated with clean and renewable energy development.

“The Energy Freedom Act opens up the grid to this new technology and these new participants. Among other things, like eliminating the net-metering cap for rooftop solar, it says if an independent power producer demonstrates the ability to generate electricity more cheaply than a mega-utility, then it must be allowed to sell that power to the grid, with savings being passed along to consumers,” said Senator Davis in an op-ed he recently penned for the occasion.

Senator Davis’s remark calls attention to a situation that has been reoccurring around the nation: once legislation opens up the local market for newer energy resources, competition increases and voters see the benefit in the form of lower utility bills.

The unanimous passage of the South Carolina Energy Freedom Act in May details a very different story from that of the previous year. In a harrowing defeat at the last minute, the bill was killed on the floor when a loophole was found that required a two-thirds majority for passage rather than a simple majority.

Luckily, this time around was different and solar came out ahead. The industry already employs about 3,000 workers in the state, and that number will surely grow under the Energy Freedom Act.

Tomorrow, South Carolina state Senator Davis and Representative Nathan Ballentine will join a panel at a CRES Forum event to talk about South Carolina’s win for solar. The panel is moderated by Matt Moore, Chairman of the Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition and also features Steffanie Dohn of Southern Current and Tyson Grinstead of Sunrun.

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