Published February 3, 2012
By Charles Warner, Editor
The Union Daily Times
Second in a series
Agreen future that includes a growing solar energy industry is also on the 2012 legislative agenda of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce(SCSBCC).
Ina telephone interview Thursday afternoon, SCSBCC President Frank Knapp discussedthe organization’s legislative agenda including its support for a bill that would provide tax credits for the installation solar energy equipment but opposition to a bill that mandates bars and restaurants bear alone the burden of recycling the cans and bottles they use.
The SCSBCC is supporting House Bill 3346 which would provide state tax credits of 35 percent for the installation of solar equipment on commercial buildings. Knapp said the tax credits would stimulate increased use of solar power by business which in turn would stimulate economic development and job growth in the state.
“We in South Carolina have a great opportunity to jump start a renewable energy industry, much like they have already done in North Carolina,” Knapp said. “What North Carolina did was to make solar equipment more affordable by offering significant tax credits. Our proposal is to have a 35 percent tax credit for installation of solar equipment on commercial buildings. If we do that, the solar industry will come. We’re talking the installers, small businesses and manufacturers, even solar farms.”
The SCSBCC website states that while South Carolina currently offers “some residential solar tax credits,” it does not provide them for commercial facilities. Despite this, Knapp pointed out that some companies are already pushing ahead with the installation of solar equipment on their facilities. He said that more would do if the state provided tax credits to help mitigate the upfront cost of installation.
“We’re talking about the solar panels for either generating electricity or heating water,” Knapp said. “Boeing has already made extensive installation of solar panels on their new plant. The Columbia Museum of Art has already installed solar panels on their building.
“The problem is that while some commercial building owners have the wherewithal to make the significant expenditures for solar, the vast majority of owners would not find this to be cost-effective at this time,” he said. “The length of time involved in recouping the costs of installation would not pay off for most businesses unless there were tax credits. A new study out shows the State of South Carolina will have a net positive increase of revenue by building a solar industry here, even with extending the tax credits.”
In addition to creating new jobs, the SCSBCC website states that “a growing solar industry will reduce the need for construction of expensive new energy producing plants and also reduce carbon emissions that contribute to climate change that threatens our small-business tourism and recreation industries.”
While it supports recycling, the SCSBCC is, however, opposing State Senate Bill 461 which Knapp said would require bars and restaurants to recycle the cans and bottles they use. Knapp said the SCSBCC is not opposed to recycling, but is opposed to making small business owners bear the cost alone. Instead, Knapp said the cost should be borne or at least shared by those who will be making money off the recycling of the materials.
“The concept of recycling we certainly support, we have been advocates for alternative energy and conservation,” Knapp said. “We oppose this bill as written, however, because it mandates that the owners of bars and restaurants alone absorb the cost of recycling the cans and bottles they use. We believe this is unfair, that the cost of recycling should be borne by the companies that will profit from the recycling of the cans and bottles.”
Knapp said the bill has already passed the State Senate and is now before the State House. He said the SCSBCC is hoping to persuade the House to make changes to the bill so that the financial burden is not borne exclusively by the small businesses affected.
“We’reasking the House to make some changes in the bill that would mitigate the burden the Senate version places on the owners of the bars and restaurants,” Knapp said. “If others are going to make money from these cans and bottles and the taxpayers may save money on landfill costs then the burden of the extra cost should be shared by all.”
The SCSBCC website describes the bottles and cans as “paid-for assets of the bars and restaurants” that use them as part of their business. It calls for the state’s bars and restaurants to “be kept whole in the recycling effort” and “receive compensation based on the value of their resources to the rest of the industry.”
The safe installation of heating and air conditioning systems is also on the SCSBCC’s agenda.
Knapp said the organization is supporting State House Bill 3473, the HVAC Consumer Safety Act, which is also supported by the South Carolina Association of Heating and Air Conditioning Contractors. The SCSBCC website states that bill is designed to “protect consumers from unlicensed contractors purchasing and installing large heating and air conditioning equipment” which could pose a hazard to the consumer.
“We’re supporting the Heating and Air Conditioning Trade Association in their efforts to promote professionalism and safety for the consumer,” Knapp said. “The bill simply says only licensed contractors would be able to purchase and install large heating and air conditioning equipment. Presently there is no prohibition on any untrained person from purchasing this equipment and installing it in somebody else’s house. That’s putting the homeowner in jeopardy of shoddy work that could cost more money down the road or even jeopardize the safety of his family.”
In addition, the SCSBCC website states that installation of HVAC systems by unlicensed contractors could also result in the “violation of state and federal environmental laws due to improper handling of hazardous materials.”
Knapp said this bill is part of the efforts of his organization to not only protect small businesses and the consumer, but also the environment.
TheSC Small Business Chamber of Commerce is a statewide advocacy organization withmore than 5,000 members that works to make state government more small businessfriendly. The Small Business Chamber is both non-partisan and non-profit. Itdoes not endorse candidates for public office nor contribute to politicalcampaigns. It is not affiliated with any other chamber ofcommerce.