Standing under an array of solar panels outside a Columbia outfitters store Wednesday, Gov. Nikki Haley praised South Carolina’s recent efforts to make power from the sun easier for businesses, utilities and homeowners to utilize.
Then, she signed a bill loosening restrictions on solar energy that for years have made South Carolina one of the least friendly states in the country for sun power.
“What we had were a lot of barriers – barriers that stood in our way when it came to solar energy,” Haley told more than 50 environmentalists, utility representatives and solar energy company executives.
But Haley said interest groups figured a way to work out their differences and make the bill possible. The bill passed the Legislature overwhelmingly last spring after a major compromise was brokered earlier in the year.
Before that, green groups and solar companies had been at odds with the state’s power companies, which feared sun power could eventually draw profits away from them. She praised Sen. Greg Gregory, R-Lancaster, for helping move the bill ahead.
Haley said expanding solar power in South Carolina will help diversify the mix of energy sources, while helping the Palmetto State catch up with North Carolina and Georgia in efforts to encourage sun-fired power.
“When you look at North Carolina and you look at Georgia, they’ve been doing pretty well when it comes to solar energy – and they don’t have any more sun than we do,” the governor said during the event at Half Moon Outfitters, which installed a “solar tree” several years ago to help power the business.
Wednesday’s signing was ceremonial only. She signed the bill earlier this summer. But Haley’s support for solar power is notable.
Only in the past two years, as The State newspaper and other news outlets began reporting on South Carolina’s restrictive rules for alternative energy, have attitudes toward solar changed among policymakers in the Palmetto State.
Haley’s support for sun power also is significant because the governor has been criticized by conservation groups for failing to pay attention to environmental issues, and at times, blasting federal environmental regulations. Two months ago, Haley criticized federal carbon rules proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to address climate change.
On Wednesday, some of the same environmentalists who support her opponent in the fall race for governor – Democratic Sen. Vincent Sheheen – were on hand to applaud Haley’s stance on solar energy. Sheheen, a Camden lawyer, has been an outspoken proponent of alternate forms of energy. Solar power is viewed as a green alternative form of energy that does not create toxic waste like that produced by nuclear power plants or air pollution like that generated at coal plants.