As the state grapples with a highly publicized debacle after two South Carolina utilities abandoned a nuclear power plant project, a new poll has found that more than two-thirds of South Carolina voters believe the state should rely more on solar energy to generate electric power, while substantially fewer voters believe that the state should become more reliant on sources like coal and nuclear power.
Conducted by The Tarrance Group and commissioned by the Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition (PCSC) and The Alliance for Solar Choice, the poll found eight out of 10 voters believe the state should rely on more or the same amount of solar energy. The groups are advocating that South Carolina raise its current net energy metering (NEM) cap for rooftop solar.
“Solar energy has emerged as a clear favorite for future electricity generation in the minds of South Carolina voters,” says Dave Sackett, founding partner of The Tarrance Group. “South Carolinians have also demonstrated that they want more energy choice and better management of their funds with energy projects going forward.”
According to the groups, the poll found that 60% of voters across party lines would be more likely to have an unfavorable impression of their own state legislators should they oppose a path forward for rooftop solar. The groups claim this is important considering the potential loss of around 3,000 solar industry jobs in South Carolina if the state were to hit its 2% solar NEM cap created in 2014.
On the issue of nuclear power plants, the majority of voters surveyed also indicated that regulators and elected officials failed to provide proper oversight on the abandoned V.C. Summer nuclear project, and more than 80% believe customers should be reimbursed for the funds they contributed to the construction.
“We are facing an energy crisis in South Carolina,” says Gresham Barrett, PCSC founder and former U.S. Representative for South Carolina. “Our friends and neighbors have made it clear that they want more access to solar energy and that they will hold those policymakers accountable if they oppose this viewpoint. As we look toward our state’s energy future, let’s embrace independently funded, affordable, clean energy solutions like rooftop solar and grow the thousands of jobs that already come with it.”
According to the groups, solar has proven to be a serious and steady economic growth driver for the state. In 2014, Act 236 paved the way for solar in South Carolina by allowing NEM and leasing, which led to the creation of close to 3,000 jobs in just a few years. However, the groups claim, these jobs are currently in danger.
The state legislature put a 2% cap on the amount of energy that is allowed to come from net metered and leased solar power for each utility in South Carolina, they explain. Driven by strong consumer demand for rooftop solar, utilities SCE&G and Duke Energy are approaching these caps rapidly. The groups claim that if the caps are reached without the state providing a viable path forward, rooftop solar businesses could have to shut down.