Last week the South Carolina Public Service Commission (PSC) approved a Settlement Agreement reached by parties to the recent net metering case.  Small businesses have a substantial interest in being able to affordably use solar panels to reduce their energy bills and contribute to the important renewable energy effort.

As an individual I intervened in the case (as I have done in SCE&G rate cases numerous times) to make sure that small business owners, like me, had a strong voice in the outcome.

The other parties agreeing to the settlement were:  SC Office of Regulatory Staff, South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Solbridge Energy, LLC Sustainable Energy Solutions, The Alliance for Solar Choice, Nucor Steel – South Carolina, South Carolina Solar Business Alliance, The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina, Central Electric Power Cooperative, Duke Energy Progress, Duke Energy Carolinas, South Carolina Electric & Gas Company

This settlement puts the state one big step closer to enabling more residential and commercial building owners to affordably use solar energy for their electricity needs.

Here are some excerpts from the PSC Directive:

The General Assembly has called on this Commission to establish methodologies for the implementation of net metering rates, tariffs, charges, and credits of electrical utilities in South Carolina and other matters with the passage of the South Carolina Distributed Energy Resource Program Act….

The agreement establishes, among other things, that as long as the settlement agreement is in effect, a net metering customer will be compensated for solar generation at the same rate as the power sold to that customer.  This is called the 1:1 rate.  Also, the Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) proposed, and the agreement adopts, a methodology to compute the value of Distributed Energy Resource (DER) generation.  The agreement states that…the difference between the value of DER generation as computed using the ORS methodology and the 1:1 rate shall be treated as DER program expense and collected through the fuel clause, without any of the difference being recovered through base rates.  Also, under the settlement agreement, the utilities are not to propose any new separately stated charges or fees, or any standby service charges to be imposed specifically on customer-generators before the settlement agreement expiration date of January 1, 2021.  In fact, also under the agreement, a customer-generator taking service under any net metering rates resulting from the agreement has the right to remain on that rate through December 31, 2025.  This provision includes protection against any new separately stated charges or fees that would apply to Distributed Energy Resource customer generators.

This Settlement Agreement represents a significant victory for solar energy advocates and all parties should be congratulated for this achievement.  Especially noteworthy is the approval of net metering customers to be compensated for electricity they put back onto the grid at the same rate they buy the electricity from the utilities.  In addition, extending until 2025 (instead of 2021 as specified in the legislation passed by the General Assembly) this 1:1 rate for solar generators and protection from utility fees for participating in net metering was critical for making investment in solar panels a viable option.  But to receive this great deal, consumers must become net metering customers before January 1, 2021.

There is still another hurdle to jump in this new metering effort.  The utilities and intervening parties will go back to the PSC to hash out how much the utilities avoid in costs because of their solar generating customers and how much net revenue the utilities give up and thus can recover through the normal fuel clause process.  Expect all the same parties including me to be back for these negotiations.

However, it is not too early to start exploring your options from solar panel providers either to buy or lease the equipment.  A new solar energy era is coming to South Carolina.  Be a part of it.

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