As originally published in The State: here
For the first time since the great recession, our state is seeing an increase in take-home pay not only among pre-existing jobs but also in innovative new jobs with higher wages. We are winning in the global economy. This is due in large measure to state Republican leaders in Columbia who understand that it is the government’s responsibility to foster a pro-growth business climate where the private sector can create jobs. One industry where this idea is readily apparent is renewable energy.
Clean-energy solutions and the new outlook elected leaders in South Carolina have on energy alternatives represent major pillars of the new, revitalized S.C. economy.
According to a recent state survey conducted by Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, voters not only expect renewable energy support from elected officials, they now demand it. Compared to other issues our government is addressing, including the economy, jobs and government spending, 80 percent of S.C. Republican primary voters think energy policy — specifically the exploration and development of renewable-energy sources — should be a priority. It’s something presidential candidates should keep in mind as they campaign in the Palmetto State.
Just five years ago, Gov. Nikki Haley took office at a time of severe economic hardship. South Carolina faced the largest budget shortfall in history, and pessimism among our workforce ran high. Earlier this year, her second inaugural address spoke of our state in starkly different terms. “We’re building cars and planes and tires like never before, and there’s more of that on the way,” she said. The diversification of South Carolina’s power infrastructure has contributed to this growth.
Reliable, affordable power is a constant challenge for governments and businesses. Yet for some time, South Carolina’s solar industry was in conflict with the state’s power companies. Environmentalists, manufacturers and utility providers could find no common ground. Old state laws actually worked to discourage solar companies that provide affordable roof-top panels from doing business in our state. It took Republican leaders to spearhead a new, free-market plan of financing solar panels that could help Palmetto State consumers and businesses install sun systems on their rooftops.
Sunshine is a resource we have in abundance, so Sens. Greg Gregory, John Courson and Chip Campsen helped to make solar leasing a priority in the General Assembly. Gov. Nikki Haley’s support for solar-power innovation was also notable because in the past she had been wrongly criticized by left-leaning environmental groups for ignoring the benefits of renewable energy.
Thanks to Republican leadership, the Distributed Energy Resource Program Act became state law in 2014 and now provides residential and business customers with more options and financial flexibility to use clean, renewable energy. Utility companies such as Duke Energy even offer specialized rebates for customers who install small-scale solar facilities and a shared solar program for those who are often unable to participate in renewable-energy options, such as nonprofit charities and community centers.
This growth and innovation-oriented approach illustrates the power that free-market energy solutions have to solve our problems. Diversified energy sources are both consumer- and business-friendly. They increase home values and provide businesses such as Boeing, BMW, Continental Tire and Honda ATV the ability to maximize competitiveness in the global economy.
Even more importantly, the progress state Republican leaders have made illustrates our commitment to sustaining clean air and water for future generations. That’s a winning formula for business, consumers and all S.C. families.