Jobs, economic investments could be lost if energy legislation does not pass

Jobs, economic investments could be lost if energy legislation does not pass

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Solar power advocates said thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic investments could be lost if the Energy Freedom Act isn’t passed in a timely manner.

They said, once the net metering cap is met and the bill isn’t passed, it could put a cloud over the future of solar energy in South Carolina.

Lawmakers said the cap will be met in the Upstate sometime in March. The bills, filed in the House and Senate, are proposing to raise the cap. Advocates said the demand in South Carolina shows there is plenty of support for it.

The House Energy Caucus, a bipartisan group of representatives, heard testimony from solar power advocates Thursday morning.

Net metering is an incentive for solar panel users to send any energy they don’t use back to the grid. That energy can be used by other people. A credit is sent back to those solar panel users.

Once the cap is met, the incentive will not be available for South Carolinians.

According to a Benchmark Research Poll done for the non-profit Vote Solar, 95 percent of South Carolinians they spoke with said they want the choice to install solar panels on their homes and businesses.

Supporters of solar energy and lawmakers said 3,000 jobs could leave the state if this bill doesn’t pass.

"We were completely caught off guard with the whole SCE&G and VC Summer and Santee Cooper situation,” Representative Nathan Ballentine (R-Richland) said. “All of a sudden, we read the paper and 5,000 jobs, 5,000 families were impacted. With this, we’ve been warned since last year that this cap will be reached.”

Solar power advocates said the state will lose billions of dollars in economic investments especially in rural areas for solar power grids.

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