Soaring Fossil Fuel Prices Accelerating The “Buckeye State’s” Move To Renewables

State Economy

The population of the Palmetto State, South Carolina is approximately 5.22 million people[1]. South Carolina is the 23rd most populated state in the United States.

In 2021, South Carolina’s economy was ranked 25th in the United States in gross domestic product (GDP)[2]. The state’s economy is dependent on the agriculture, automotive, aerospace, and tourism industries[3].

Environment Policies

In 2014, South Carolina enacted a Voluntary Renewables Portfolio Standard[4] for investor-owned utilities to sell 2% of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2021.

In June 2022, utilities used nuclear energy (51.1 %), natural gas (27.4 %), coal (14.2 %), and  renewable energy (7.3 %) to generate electricity in South Carolina[5]. Hydropower, solar, and biomass are the primary types of renewable energy used to generate electricity in South Carolina.

In June 2022, the average cost of residential electricity in South Carolina was 14.21 ¢ per kWh, compared to the national average of 15.42 ¢ per kWh.

Recent renewable energy developments in South Carolina include:

  • 200 MW Solar Project – Tennessee solar company is continuing work on the Lambert solar project at a site located approximately 90 miles southeast of the state capital, Columbia. The project is forecast to be commissioned in 2023.
  • 98 MW Solar Project – In March 2021, American solar company, Pine Gate Renewables commissioned the Centerfield Solar project at a site located approximately 75 miles northeast of Columbia.
  • 75 MW Solar Project – Missouri renewable energy company, Savion is continuing work on the Orangeburg County Solar Project at a site approximately 40 miles southwest of Columbia. The project is forecast to be commissioned by year-end 2022.
  • 75 MW Solar Project – California solar company, Ecoplexus is continuing work on the Hemingway solar project at a site approximately 100 miles southeast of Columbia. The project is forecast to be commissioned in 2023.
  • 75 MW Solar Project – Virginia power company, Dominion Energy is continuing on the Chester White solar project at a site approximately 50 miles southwest of Columbia. The project is forecast to be commissioned by year-end 2023.
  • 75 MW Solar Project – South Carolina company, Johnson Development is continuing work on a solar project at a site approximately 85 southeast of Columbia. The project is forecast to be commissioned in 2023.
  • 12 MW Solar Project – In December 2020, Dominion Energy commissioned the Trask East Solar facility at a site located approximately 100 miles south of Columbia.
  • 10 MW Solar Project In December 2020, Dominion Energy commissioned the Yemassee Solar facility at a site located approximately 80 miles south of Columbia.

Conclusions

In 2010, 36.4% of South Carolina’s electricity was generated from coal-fueled power plants[6]. In June 2022, 14.2% of the state’s electricity was generated from coal-fueled power plants. Why the decrease?

  1. Pollution – Coal ash, the product of coal burned in a power plant contains arsenic, mercury, and lead; which are toxic. In 2019, coal ash was documented to have leaked into the ground water around 241 coal-fired plants in America[7].
  2. EconomicsThe cost to generate power from coal is more than double the cost to generate power from renewables, like solar.
  3. Climate Change Coal generates 40% to 45% more greenhouse gases than natural gas.

South Carolina has steadily reduced the use of coal to fuel power plants over the last decade. The abundance of inexpensive natural gas prompted state utilities to shift from coal to natural gas as a fuel for thermal power plants.

On 24 February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine, resulting in the United States, Canada, and the European Union placing embargos on Russian exports. As a result, the global price for crude oil and natural gas has increased by over 50% from May 2021 to May 2022.

In 2021, the United States was the 3rd largest liquified natural gas (LNG) exporting country, behind Australia and Qatar. The United States is ramping up LNG exports to Europe due to the curtailment of Russian natural gas imports. Natural gas prices are projected to increase as demand for non-Russian natural gas around the world increases.

South Carolina has significant undeveloped renewable energy resources, including solar, offshore wind, and biomass. State utilities are beginning to accelerate the develop of renewable energy projects, as coal and natural gas prices relentlessly increase.

Soaring natural gas and coal prices are causing the Buckeye State to move to low-cost, reliable renewable energy.

 Jack Kerfoot

Website – “Our Energy Conundrum”

www.jackkerfoot.com

 

Jack Kerfoot is a scientist, energy expert, and author of the book FUELING AMERICA, An Insider’s Journey and articles for The Hill, one of the largest independent political news sites in the United States. He has been interviewed on over 100 radio and television stations from New York City to Los Angeles on a wide range of energy topics.

[1] South Carolina Population 2022, World Population Review

[2] U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis

[3] Biggest Industries in South Carolina – World Atlas

[4] National Conference of State Legislators – State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals, August 13, 2021

[5] U.S. Energy Information Agency – South Carolina State Profile and Energy Estimates

[6] EIA, Electric Power Sector Consumption Estimates, Georgia 1960-2018

[7] Reuters, “Coal Ash Contaminates Groundwater Near Most U.S. Coal Plants: Study” by Valerie Volcovici, March 3, 2019

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