January 11, 2016

- The Paris Climate Summit Agreement that was signed this month is clear evidence that the global economy is moving toward more reliance on renewable energy. How our nation responds to climate change and global warming is a controversial issue, but one thing is clear: South Carolina is uniquely positioned to take advantage of this move to renewable energy, for a number of reasons. 

First, South Carolina is becoming a leader in solar energy, thanks in large part to the Legislature’s adoption of Act 236 in 2014. Act 236 was a compromise developed by electric cooperatives, investor-owned utilities, solar-power proponents and conservationists to open the way for more distributed-energy production in South Carolina. The law’s key provisions — giving customers the freedom to lease solar, permitting utilities to introduce distributed-energy programs and ensuring equitable net-metering rules — will expand customer options and increase cost-effective renewable power in South Carolina.

As a result, there are many new solar companies in our state, and solar power in South Carolina is becoming competitive with grid electricity, due to the decrease in cost and the tax credits. Solar and other renewable energy tax credits were extended this month in the budget deal in Washington. 


Second, South Carolina is a leader in wind energy research. Wind energy is a fast-growing source of electricity production and three years ago accounted for 40 percent of new electricity production in the United States. The Clemson University Restoration Institute is the home of the Wind Turbine Drivetrain Testing Facility and is one of only three such facilities in the world — and the largest. The Clemson facility will test machinery that converts both onshore and offshore wind to electricity and allow engineers to simulate years’ worth of wear and tear on drivetrains in a few months.

Finally, the University of South Carolina is a leader in hydrogen fuel cells. The S.C. Hydrogen Fuel Cell Alliance and the Columbia Fuel Cell Collaborative are working together to position South Carolina as a leader in hydrogen and fuel-cell innovation and technology. Their mission is to attract private-sector partners, top fuel-cell scientists, entrepreneurs and innovators to South Carolina to collaborate with private-sector leaders from all areas of the fuel-cell market for the unprecedented deployment of fuel-cell-energy technologies into multiple city, university and commercial applications throughout the region and state. 

The world is clearly moving toward renewable energy, and South Carolina has the potential to be an innovation center for many of the new green technologies. As a result, our state and citizens will be economic winners.  



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