Audubon South Carolina’s newly commissioned report, “An Economic Analysis of the Solar Industry in South Carolina,” found that the solar energy industry has a $1.5 billion impact in the state, contributes more than $58.8 million in state and local taxes annually, and supports 7,250 South Carolina jobs.
“Expanding access to and use of solar energy not only helps protect the clean air and water that birds rely on, it also helps mitigate emissions associated with a changing climate, which Audubon has identified as the number one threat to birds,” said Justin Stokes, executive director of Audubon South Carolina. “Perhaps just as importantly, South Carolina’s solar industry represents a huge economic opportunity for our state, in the form of jobs, tax revenue, investment and even energy cost savings.”
Conducted by College of Charleston economic professors Frank Hefner, Ph.D., and J. Wesley Burnett, Ph.D., the study uses a regional impact model, IMPLAN, and data from the Solar Foundation’s annual survey of solar jobs to determine the total economic impacts of solar jobs in South Carolina—including related manufacturing, installation, whole trade and distribution, and operations and maintenance.
While South Carolina is currently the fifteenth largest producer of solar energy in the U.S, it has one of the highest growth rates of solar penetration in the nation. The study identified strong net metering policies as an integral component of the industry’s rapid growth in the state, as well as a significant factor in its continued success moving forward.
“Thanks to smart policymaking at the state and federal level, South Carolina’s solar industry has gone from non-existent to one of the fastest growing solar markets in the country in just a few short years,” said Julia Dietz, policy director for Audubon South Carolina. “With the continued support of the state legislature and our federal delegation, the opportunity for continued growth is enormous.”
Supported by findings from 2019 U.S. Department of Energy-funded research conducted by the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, the study called South Carolina an “unstoppable giant” on increasing adoption of solar energy, and also identified a number of potential hurdles to the continued growth of South Carolina’s solar industry, including inconsistent policies among investor-owned utilities (IOUs) and electric co-ops, and increased skepticism toward utilities among residents as a result of the failed V.C. Summer nuclear project and related rate increases.
Audubon supports a transition to clean energy sources, like solar, for electricity generation as a means to reduce air and water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions related to traditional energy production. As an added benefit in a state that grapples with increasingly strong and frequent hurricanes and flooding, adding more solar power to the grid and increasing battery storage will help bring the state back online quickly after a natural disaster.
Audubon South Carolina looks forward to working with partners, policymakers and regulators at the local, state and federal level to continue expanding access to solar in the state, including low- and middle-income communities that could benefit significantly from energy-costs savings associated with a transition to solar.