South Carolina and the Energy Consumer
South Carolina’s public energy roots trace back at least to 1846 with the Charleston Gas Light Company. It was the United States Electric illuminating Company of Charleston that was the first electric central station for incandescent lighting in October 1882, a month after Thomas Edison opened his Pearl Street plant in New York City.
In the past few years:
- South Carolina’s four nuclear power plants supplied about more than half of the state’s net electricity generation (2016 figure). All carbon-free electricity.
- Natural gas deliveries to South Carolina’s electric power sector roughly tripled in a decade as gas became a quick-to-build, modest-carbon source for power.
Coal, once a foundation for electric fuel, is decreasing.
- Renewable energy is about 5 percent of net electricity generation with nearly equal amounts from conventional hydroelectric power and biomass-fueled generation.
- Another kind of hydro-power, pumped storage, serves SC well: Higher elevation lakes drain through turbines to create electricity when extra energy is needed, then lakes are refilled for their next use.
- The unquestioned SC leadership in nuclear energy is cast in doubt as new reactor construction has been suspended. Public discourse is not about energy expertise, but business and political issues.
- The proper business model for the largest public power entity in the state is up for grabs.
- Renewables grow, as in so many states.
- Gas generation continues to be a popular option.
- Customers see new leverage as technology makes energy efficiency and local generation possible as never before.
Energy Consumers of the Carolinas devotes this space to issues in South Carolina: Observations, questions, and viewpoints from people across a spectrum of energy and consumer interests.
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