South Carolina House stalls renewable energy tax breaks that solar advocates wanted, halting bill this year
COLUMBIA – After receiving wide-spread support in the Senate more than three months ago, state representatives derailed a pro-solar energy bill that would reduce property taxes for renewable energy projects in South Carolina.
A House subcommittee chaired by Rep. Brian White, R-Anderson, voted to end debate on the sought-after legislation, which solar industry officials say could increase investment of renewable energy projects in the state – a sector that is worth billions of dollars.
The proposed law would allow commercial-sized solar projects to reduce their property taxes by 80 percent, and would ensure that rooftop solar installations on residential homes are not assessed under property tax laws.
The legislation had been passed by the Senate in early February but had been stalled in the House Ways and Means Committee, that White chairs, for most of the session.
In voting down the bill, White argued that if solar projects start increasing dramatically because of property tax incentives, there wouldn’t be enough land for farming and timber in South Carolina.
It was unfair, White said, to give solar and distributed energy sources tax breaks and not to give the state’s large utility companies – Duke Energy and South Carolina Electric & Gas – the same deal. He said solar companies can currently negotiate lower property taxes for solar projects on a county by county basis.
White also emphasized to the audience during the hours-long committee meeting that he was environmentally conscious. He’s a hunter, he said, which makes him the “ultimate conservationist.”
“I laugh at the greenies ’cause sometimes they just don’t like me, and that’s just fine. The good lord and I are on good ground, so I don’t worry about them,” White said.
There was no discussion during the hearing about how renewable energy reduces carbon output from fossil fuel power plants that are the largest contributors to human-induced global warming worldwide.
Bret Sowers with the S.C. Solar Business Alliance, testified the bill is needed to increase investment in South Carolina. He said proposed solar projects could help meet demand for electricity in the future if the new reactors at the V.C. Summer nuclear plant don’t get completed.
“What we want to build is a standardized tax structure for these facilities,” Sowers said.
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