COLUMBIA, S.C. - Solar companies are looking for answers after a bill in the House fails to pass. The bill aimed at utilities would help solar companies expand their carbon footprint. But since the bill didn't meet the voting requirements to move to the Senate, solar companies are now worried about their future.
Krisitina Cook is one of those employees. She works for United Solar. "The company I work is a local for has a lot of ties to South Carolina. They may have to walk away from the solar industry with something like this, but we'll be out of work is what will happen."
Hundreds of people like Cook dedicate their lives to connecting residents with renewable energy sources like solar energy. But certain laws in place have created limits on how much solar energy can be put out, so lawmakers considered a bill that would raise those restrictions and make solar energy more accessible.
"This bill was really for homeowners to gain the power to control where their distributed comes from. Right now you really don't have a choice. If you live in a certain area you're bound to what that utility company has," said Christian Bruno, a sales rep for CED Greentech.
The Electric Consumer Bill of Rights would lift the limit on how many grids can be installed and controlling how unused energy can be distributed.
"It allows homeowners to take that uncontrolled debt and stabilize and it allows them to have control of their power. Not every situation is perfect. We would love for everyone to use 100, meaning they don't have to buy back from the utility company."
Solar energy customers have an annual amount of energy they can use and it's reviewed each billing cycle. If a customer uses more energy than the solar panels have produced, they'll have to buy utilities from the electric company.
Unused energy works similar to rollover minutes for a cellphone and is credited to the next bill, helping the investment pay for itself. But without measures like this bill in place, solar companies fear prices will rise and fewer people will be interested in solar energy meaning less jobs for those in the industry.
"I was hoping they would get something done that wouldn't' shut down the industry. Because once that cap hits, you can do it because it's green but without the net metering it doesn't make financial sense to go solar," Karl Wiant, owner of SolarChief.
"For myself.. it puts our jobs at risk for sure, it limits the accessibility to solar for everybody.. so it's going to drive up the costs," added Bruno.
The average solar system costs around $34,000 and most homeowners can see a return on their investment in 6 years.
The bill received a 61-44 vote, but because there is language dealing with taxes a 2/3 vote was needed for it to pass.