Two things happened this week showing that California and the U.S. Southwest are no longer the only bastions for solar power and they were in the sister states of the Carolinas, both states dominated by conservative politicians. North Carolina is already among the U.S. leaders in terms of solar but yesterday (May 21) South Carolina’s House passed solar legislation—unanimously! Meanwhile this morning a new poll by the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA) confirms that the overwhelming majority, 90 percent, of North Carolinians support solar energy, with high numbers supporting more solar and clean energy programs in the state.
Now South Carolina becomes the meat between a sandwich of two southeast solar powerhouses, Georgia and North Carolina—at least if the Senate approves the House version and the Governor signs the legislation into law, which with such unanimous support 150-0 in the House appears likely. “The compromise bill has support from South Carolina’s influential utilities and conservation groups, and a similar version of the measure has passed the Senate,” observes The State’s Sammy Fretwell.
One of the key factors in the bill is that it would allow third-party ownership of solar arrays for homeowners. It would also allow commercial-scale installations of up to 1 megawatt as opposed to 100 kilowatts which is the current limitation.
Still, the passed bill has limitations, according to Fretwell. He says challenges remain and that the bill doesn’t resolve how solar could affect ratepayers’ electricity rates. It also requires the state’s Public Service Commission to rule on third-party ownership rates for utilities in the state. But on the other hand the legislation was approved after two years of wangling and it has the support of the state’s utilities as well as conservation groups including the Southern Environmental Law Center and the S.C. Coastal Conservation League.
Meanwhile North Carolina has the second largest amount of solar power under advancedstages of development, according to new data from SNL Financial. The company says North Carolina has 1.3 gigawatts of solar power in advanced development stages, putting it behind only California. And according to the NCSEA poll it’s likely the state will continue to lead in solar power—at least if its residents have anything to say about it.
Fallon Research conducted the poll of 803 voters in North Carolina and found that fully 83 percent of respondents think state leaders and elected officials should seek more renewable energy with solar receiving the strongest support at 90 percent.
“These results are consistently telling us that energy policy is important to North Carolinians. What’s more, constituents are making note of their rising electricity bills and are looking to our leaders in the state legislature to adopt commonsense changes,” said NCSEA Executive Director Ivan Urlaub. “One way we can ease the burden of rising utility bills for North Carolina families and businesses is to build upon a framework that supports a competitive energy market that drives innovation, expands business opportunities and improves local economies.”