A trio of bills before the South Carolina legislature are designed to promote renewable energy in the state, as well as conservation by consumers.
Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell’s (R-Charleston) three bills were presented to a state Senate Finance Committee this week. This story from television station WFMY says the first bill dealt with tax breaks for making home improvements for energy savings. And that’s just the beginning:
A second bill would give a sales tax break to companies buying machinery, tools or parts to produce electricity from alternative sources, including solar, wind, tides and biomass.
That kind of break and other energy production incentives have been a huge benefit for companies like Ecogy Biomass, a company that began turning soy oil into biodiesel in Estill in January.
Hal Wrigley, president of Ecogy Biomass and Knightbridge Biofuel said the soy oil for his biodiesel cost $1.75 a gallon last year and was $5.25 a gallon last month.
“Right now, the only lucrative place to sell it is over in Europe,” Wrigley said.
Wrigley wants to see more incentives that encourage companies to mix biodiesel with regular diesel and tax breaks for truckers and other consumers buying biodiesel.
Other bills being considered address existing incentives for people installing solar water heaters or panels to generate electricity.
State and federal income tax breaks for installing those devices have helped Bruce Wood’s Sunstore Solar in Greer. South Carolina had lagged North Carolina and Georgia for years in state tax breaks, Wood said. That meant that he was doing 70 percent of his business out of state. But now 75 percent of his business is in South Carolina and his payroll has tripled to nine people.
“There’s a green movement that’s afoot,” Wood said.
The tax break makes the cost of putting in solar panels more reasonable while shortening the time it takes for the systems to pay for themselves with reduced energy bills. A solar hot water system that costs $6,000 comes with an $1,800 federal tax credit and $1,500 from the state. That means the system will be paying for itself in less than six years, instead of the 12 years it would take without the break, Wood said.
For those who argue that this is just another government handout, officials point out the economic benefit of programs like these. They say the state is poised to add more than 22,000 jobs in the renewable energy sector… if the right incentives are there.