News and Announcements

Empowering you through education. Solar industry news from your local South Carolina solar provider and beyond.

SC’s new Energy Freedom Act opens up energy-production markets to more competition

This past Tuesday, in a State House rotunda packed with media, renewable-energy activists and solar-industry entrepreneurs, I stood alongside Gov. Henry McMaster as he signed into law a bill titled the “Energy Freedom Act,” which I co-authored with Rep. Peter McCoy, R-Charleston.

It has been widely reported that this new law is about promoting clean energy, and that’s partially true.

But it’s really about something more fundamental: it is a first step away from the energy-production monopolies that have saddled South Carolinians with some of the highest electricity bills in the nation, and toward real competition that will provide downward pressure on the cost of producing energy.

Over 60 years ago, the South Carolina General Assembly began passing laws that provided mega-utilities with service-area monopolies and guaranteed them a generous return on their invested capital. That made sense then, given the high fixed costs of building plants and power grids and the difficulty the South had at the time in attracting investment capital.

That same model is still in place today, with Santee Cooper, Duke Energy and Dominion Energy (formerly SCE&G) holding the monopolies.

But as the nuclear-facility debacle in Fairfield County illustrated, with $9 billion having been spent by Santee Cooper and SCE&G (and to be paid for by their customers!) on a now-abandoned project, there are dangers inherent in this model.

Mega-utilities with monopolies will inevitably pursue expensive projects because the return they get is directly related to what they spend. There is little incentive for them to embrace cutting-edge technologies in order to lower energy-production costs.

As a result we have not fully benefited from the explosion in communications technology which, in other parts of our country, has revolutionized every aspect of the electricity-supply chain — technology that makes it much easier to communicate, coordinate, and automate grid interactions and that facilitates access to new market participants naturally incentivized to innovate.

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.

The objective here is for consumers to pay rates that are a function of what competition in the energy-production market dictates, as opposed to simply paying a mega-utility a guaranteed rate of return on its invested capital. And also to remove barriers to market-driven innovations, for no one knows what else markets may come up with when the grid is open to all.

This latter point was made in a recent piece published in Utility Drive: “As thousands of new 5G cell towers are installed across the country over the next few years and ubiquitous sensors allow for more sophisticated management of electric load and accommodation of innovation, the ‘Internet of Things’ has the power to revolutionize the electric industry … The electric-utility industry has the potential to deliver innovations in service that have heretofore been unimaginable.”

The Energy Freedom Act will help clear the way for these innovations, but considerable work remains to be done, for the old way of doing business and those who benefit from it never yield to any change without a fight.

In particular, careful attention must be paid to the actions of the Public Service Commission, which is charged with implementing the new law. Still, this was a win for South Carolinians and a good first step.

Tom Davis is a State Senator representing portions of Beaufort and Jasper counties.

The Energy Freedom Act Passed! What does this mean for you?

This month, the South Carolina General Assembly unanimously voted in favor of the Energy Freedom Act. Last week, Governor McMaster signed the bill into law. This is very exciting news for the solar industry! This law allows for the continuation of fair policy and for people to have the solar that they produce whether they use it in their home or export it to the grid. This means that solar will be priced fairly for ALL, not just the consumer.

So how does it impact our solar customers?

For existing clients, it solidifies the timeline for the expiration of net metering as a rate schedule for those who have already committed to solar through at least 2025.

For new clients, it allows them to participate in the existing net metering policies that make solar fair and attractive to residential and business clients across South Carolina.

This also means important news for solar industry jobs. Without the passage of the Energy Freedom Act and the change to the return on investment for solar, all the companies that have been investing in building solar companies in South Carolina would have faced a dramatically new market. A market in which power generated from solar was not treated fairly and, therefore, was a more challenging proposition to residential clients. Many people who are making their career in solar in a variety of skill sets may have lost their jobs.

What was it NOT going to do?

As a result of this policy, the price of solar was not going to change dramatically and solar would not have become more expensive, but the homeowner’s return on investment would have been negative. Without the Energy Freedom Act, it would have taken many more years for solar owners to recoup their investment in clean energy, even though the cost of the installation would have been the same.

In some other parts of the country, the “value of solar” is actually considered to be higher. In these other areas, any electricity exported to the grid can potentially receive a premium because some of those utilities view solar as an asset on their gird. This means less service upgrades and less facility upgrades. It also means that there is no need to build out sub-stations or to produce as much power during peak hours because the utility companies know there is a base supply of solar in the market that can lower the demand they would otherwise have to produce.

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What the Energy Freedom Act has done is allow clients of Southern Current DG and the utilities to purchase solar with the same fair and reasonable rate structures you already have, letting more people enjoy the benefits of solar.

In the long term, it offers more people the ability to advocate for solar from the position of owners of systems. The next time there is a legislative or policy issue the #SoCuSolarArmy can be a larger and more diverse voice for solar advocacy!

Ready go to solar, get a FREE consultation! 

Governor McMaster signed the Energy Freedom Act into Law!

Standing behind Governor McMaster is Southern Current’s VP of Policy, Bret Sowers, and Director of Policy, Steffanie Dohn.

Excerpt from “S.C. Governor Signs Energy Freedom Act: A Major Boon For Solar

By Betsy Lillian of Solar Industry Mag:

On Thursday night, Gov. Henry McMaster, R-S.C., signed into law The Energy Freedom Act, which is expected to bring myriad benefits to the solar industry.

As previously explained by the Solar Energy Industries Association, the bill, H.B.3659, includes the following provisions for solar:

  • Requires the Public Service Commission (PSC) to initiate a new proceeding to review and approve rates and terms provided to large-scale solar facilities, ensuring contract terms are reasonable for such projects;
  • Allows large energy consumers, such as industrial manufacturers, to negotiate directly with a renewable energy supplier to more easily realize savings from solar;
  • Eliminates net metering caps and extends the existing residential solar rates for two years until the PSC determines a successor program;
  • Provides for more transparency and competition in long-term utility generation planning; and
  • Gives the PSC the authority to establish a new neighborhood community solar program, with the opportunity to expand solar access to low-income customers.

Governor McMaster and Jason Epstein, CEO of Southern Current DG, LLC, shake hands after the signing.



“On behalf of the entire team at Southern Current, I’d like to thank Governor McMaster, Senator Davis, all those that voted unanimously in the House and the Senate to guarantee a fair and level playing field for solar in the great state of South Carolina; and the hundreds that worked behind the scenes to make it happen.”  – Jason Epstein, CEO of Southern Current DG

Look out for more news later this week regarding how this bill affects current and new solar customers.