Conservation groups say Biden’s visit highlights importance of clean energy industry in S.C.

Published: Jul. 11, 2023 at 6:03 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Conservation groups say President Joe Biden’s visit to the Midlands last week highlights the importance of boosting the clean energy industry in South Carolina.

The nonprofit Conservation Voters of South Carolina says what the state lacks, in coal and gas deposits, makes it a natural fit to become a nationwide leader in clean energy manufacturing.

“We’re seeing South Carolina really lead the pack in many ways when it comes to clean energy economy,” CVSC Energy Policy Director John Brooker said.

An even bigger spotlight was put on that last Thursday when the president toured and spoke at a West Columbia facility that is making microinverters for the first time in the US.

Those convert energy from the sun into usable power, which the White House said is moving a key component of the supply chain here from overseas.

“Jobs that used to go to Mexico, India, Romania, China are now coming home to South Carolina,” Biden said Thursday.

During his remarks, the president announced the creation of 600 more positions in the state through a partnership between Flex LTD and Enphase Energy that is made possible, he said, because of his administration’s Inflation Reduction Act policies.

“This is on the heels of many announcements over the past year and change,” Brooker said. “We’ve seen $11 billion in the past year or so in investment in clean energy industries, 14,000 or so jobs brought to the state.”

Those aren’t the only green jobs coming to South Carolina, which is also heavily recruiting companies in the electric vehicle manufacturing field to invest here.

In just the last year, companies including BMW, Redwood Materials, and Envision AESC have committed billions of dollars and thousands of jobs in the Palmetto State as they ramp up production to build electric vehicles and related parts, like batteries.

Those projects were capped most recently with Scout Motors’ decision earlier this year to build a $2-billion vehicle manufacturing facility in Richland County, which will employ up to 4,000 people.

Brooker said this, coupled with the president’s visit, shows South Carolinians can support clean energy while also supporting businesses based in their state.

“I think a lot of people when they think of clean energy, think a lot of this is coming from overseas,” he said. “We have storage facilities that have been announced in South Carolina. We have a slew of EV manufacturers and even have offshore wind manufacturers in South Carolina. It’s a great opportunity to invest in those industries, and I think there’s more to come and we’ll see more of that in the future.”

Brooker said the state should be looking to support clean energy not only in terms of manufacturing but also in how it plans for the grid and South Carolina’s energy future.

Last month, Gov. Henry McMaster issued an executive order to form the new PowerSC working group, which will develop plans to ensure South Carolina has the energy capacity to meet the needs of its economic development and population growth.

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