Late last month, President Trump's Administration decided to levy tariffs against solar panels imported into the United States — to the tune of 30%. His decision to impose these tariffs was ostensibly to protect U.S. manufacturing capability, but it was opposed by nearly every renewable energy group, as well as many conservative groups. Now that the decision has been made, what is the impact for South Carolina?
The state supports 3,000 solar jobs, more than 50 solar businesses, and has been ranked as high as #2 in fastest solar job growth and #1 in solar capacity growth over the last several years. However, the new tariffs are projected to impact South Carolina solar growth, with some projections showing that South Carolina could be the 5th-most affected state in the country. Although these tariffs phase-out after four years, there remains a larger, more immediate, and self-inflicted threat to the growth story of South Carolina renewable energy: The expiration of fair-crediting for rooftop solar installations in the form of net-metering.
What is net-metering? Net-metering is a simple billing system allowing homeowners to offset their energy bills by producing and using on-site solar to power their house and transfer excess energy to the grid for others to use. Three years ago, South Carolina legislators sought to jumpstart homegrown renewable energy production in the Palmetto State by passing a law carving out 2% of the state's utility sales for self-generated rooftop solar production, using net-metering as a simple-to-use, simple-to-explain billing mechanism. Prior to this, homeowners had one choice only - to buy power from the monopoly utility in their area, which was either SCE&G, Duke or Santee Cooper. Over 4,000 South Carolina homeowners made the choice to go solar in that time. But the critical component — 2% of utility sales — will reach its fulfillment this year. Without extending these limits (or better yet, eliminating them completely), South Carolina renewable energy generation could grind to a halt.
The good news is that the South Carolina Legislature has a bill in front of it — HB 4221 — supporting the continued growth of renewable energy. We support it, and we encourage you to do so as well.
In the wake of the VC Summer nuclear fiasco — which cost $9 billion, will never reach completion, and obligates South Carolinians to pay 20% of every monthly bill towards this failed project — it's time that every household in the Palmetto State has a choice to go solar and save money on their electric bills, not just the 2% who were lucky to get in before the cap expires this year.