April 6, 2018

The House overwhelmingly passed a Santee Cooper reform bill this week in order to protect ratepayers and prevent another failure like the V.C. Summer nuclear project from happening again. The three-pronged approach (1) provides a new governance structure to hold the Santee Cooper Board of Directors accountable, (2) increases ratepayer protections by creating the Santee Cooper Rate Reduction and Stabilization Fund, and (3) creates the Santee Cooper Joint Evaluation and Recommendation Committee (SCJERC) that will determine whether a sale is in the best interest of ratepayers and taxpayers and puts a transparent process in place to vet potential buyers. The bill creates the Santee Cooper Rate Reduction and Stabilization Fund and requires it to be explicitly used for rate relief. Funds include: Toshiba settlement money, any gains made from the sale or salvage of V.C. Summer assets, and cost savings from governance. The legislation also authorizes the governor to remove at-will all current Santee Cooper board members and shortens the terms from seven years to four years.

The full House passed a bill to increase penalties for acts of terrorism on Wednesday. The bill’s original proponent is Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope of York County. The legislation was crafted after a failed attack on U.S. troops by a York County teenager, Zakaryia Abdin, three years ago. The teen had pledged himself to the terrorist group ISIS, which has declared war on the United States and is responsible for brutal mass killings and human trafficking overseas. Due to the current law, Zakaryia was sentenced to only three years in juvenile jail and then was released on parole after serving just one year of that sentence. The newly-passed bill mandates prison sentences of 10 years or more for individuals who plan an act of terrorism and a minimum of five years in prison for anyone who supports an act of terrorism, including financial assistance. The bill passed by a resounding vote of 111-0 in the House and will now head to the Senate for final legislative approval.

The House amended and gave second reading approval to H.4421, a bill facilitating the more expansive use of SOLAR POWER AND OTHER DISTRIBUTED ENERGY RESOURCES by customers of investor-owned electric utilities. For those that follow, you’ve seen I have been very involved in exploring energy options and real solutions for our state’s energy problems. For months, we’ve focused on energy in Columbia and this week the ‘little guy” (that’s us here in irmo, Chapin and other cities and towns around the state) scored a major victory! Against the backdrop of more than 60 lobbyists paid for the states’s utility companies and another bad bill (written by and for the utility companies by by 2 powerful House Chairman, and RUSHED through to the floor in just FIVE DAYS), the House was able to get enough Republicans and Democrats to pass legislation that will make revisions and build upon the successful deployment of solar generating capacity through the South Carolina Distributed Resource Act to continue enabling market‑driven, private investment in distributed energy resources across the state by reducing regulatory and administrative burdens to customer installation and utilization of onsite distributed energy resources. The legislation authorizes the development of solar power generation and other distributed energy resources above the cap that has been set at 2% of the previous five‑year average of the electrical utility’s South Carolina retail peak demand. The legislation establishes new provisions governing the net metering that involves customer‑generators being billed for power supplied by the electrical utility and receiving net excess generation credits when their generators produce excess power that is exported to the electrical utility’s grid. No electrical utility shall seek to recover through a general rate case or another proceeding the lost revenues associated with the energy‑saving measures that reduce a customer’s consumption of grid‑delivered electricity. The legislation discontinues existing arrangements where all of an electrical utility’s customers are subsidizing solar power programs, regardless of whether they are participating in the programs, by providing that nonparticipants in net energy metering programs are not required to subsidize the costs of customer‑generators. A temporary Renewable Energy Development Joint Study Committee is created to examine: ratemaking methodologies, cost allocations, and rate designs for all retail electric customers in South Carolina;

That last paragraph was a lot to absorb. You can check out my Twitter feed (@NathanBallentin), Facebook feed, or my website to read about how the passage of H4421 means lower costs, neighbors NOT paying for neighbors who use solar, and will keep 3,000 jobs in our state, allowing SC to continue to be a leader in the growth of energy options for their citizens! The bill has to pass the Senate before we adjourn early summer though! Since our area still is without representation in the Senate, please let me know your position and I will be sure your voice is heard with my colleagues over in that chamber.

It’s an honor and privilege to serve you in Columbia. As always, I enjoy speaking with you by phone, at the ball fields, or in the grocery store. Please excuse my large campaign signs that went up this weekend! I don’t like “tacky-ing up” our area; so I’m holding off a few weeks before delivering everyone’s yard signs. Once the campaign is over June 12th, I’ll personally remove the signs we put up – which are being put up on private property with the property owner’s permission.