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Energy policy in South Carolina

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Energy policy in South Carolina
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Quick facts
Energy department:
South Carolina Energy Office[1]
State population:
4.8 million
Per capita income:
Energy consumption
Total energy consumption:
1,610 trillion BTU[2][3]
Per capita energy consumption:
345 million BTU
Energy spending
Total state energy spending:
$21,175 million
Per capita energy spending:
Residential natural gas price:
$11.30 per thousand cubic foot
Residential electricity price:
11.85 cents per kWh
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Energy PolicyEnergy policy in the United StatesFracking in South CarolinaEnergy and environmental news

Energy policy in South Carolina depends on geography, natural energy resources, how electricity is generated, how much energy consumers use, politics and the influence of groups such as environmental and industry organizations. Decisions by policymakers, such as state and local governments, utilities and regulatory agencies, affect all citizens economically and environmentally, and are generally geared toward providing reliable, affordable energy. The cost of energy affects not only home heating and electricity bills, and thus disposable income, but also economic growth, including jobs, investment and the cost of doing business in the state.

How energy is produced and consumed also has an impact on the environment and pollution. Energy policy in South Carolina, and many other states, focuses on decreasing emissions and dependence on fossil fuels by increasing energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy. As the infrastructure for producing and delivering renewable energy sources is not as advanced as it is for energy generation from traditional sources, these policies often require subsidies to make the produced energy affordable, and their effects are difficult to measure.

Energy policy involves trade-offs between providing an affordable, consistent energy supply on the one hand, and limiting pollution and protecting the environment, on the other. How states attempt to balance these two differs between states, and often boils down to costs to consumers versus costs to the environment. This article provides general energy information about the state as the context within which energy policy is made, as well as information about major legislation and public and private groups that play a role in setting energy policy in the state.

See also: Energy policy in the United States for more information on energy policy.
See also: Fracking in South Carolina

Energy overview

State facts

Below are quick facts about South Carolina’s energy climate.

South Carolina

In South Carolina

  • natural gas consumption doubled from 2008 to 2012.
  • renewable energy production accounts for about 4 percent of electricity generation.
  • 2 percent of the nation’s ethanol was consumed in 2011.
  • industry is the largest energy-consuming sector in the state, accounting for nearly one-third of the state’s net energy consumption.[4]

Available energy resources

South Carolina has no traditional energy resources such as oil, coal or natural gas. Because of the state’s access to the Colonial and Plantation pipelines from the Gulf Coast, the Dixie Pipeline, Port of Charleston and Port of Georgetown receive petroleum and natural gas. By rail, the state imports coal from Kentucky mainly, and lesser amounts from Virginia, West Virginia, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.This lack of traditional energy resources means South Carolina imports them, bringing in all the coal, natural gas and petroleum consumed in the state.[4]

South Carolina has renewable energy resources that contributed 4 percent of the energy for electricity in 2011 according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). South Carolina has a large forestry industry with logging residue, which supplies the renewable resource, biomass. Coal-fired cogeneration facilities have begun to be replaced with fuel from biomass. Methane gas from landfills, hog farms and agricultural residue are another source of electricity production within the state. There are no ethanol plants or requirements, but 2 percent of the national ethanol consumption came from this state. The Santee Cooper Lake system has been generating hydroelectric power since the 1940s. Other renewable sources in the form of wind, solar and geothermal exist, but not in significant amounts.[4]

Consumption and prices

Energy consumption in South Carolina
SC energy consumption chart.png

     Transportation       Residential     Industrial       Commercial
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As shown on the pie chart in 2011, roughly one-third of South Carolina’s energy use was for industry, and more than one quarter for transportation; the rest was used mostly in residential and commercial buildings--for heating, cooling, lighting and other functions. Most of the energy used in the state is in the form of energy produced through nuclear power. Petroleum is close behind (used primarily for transportation), followed by coal.[4] Gasoline, used in transportation, accounts for about 25 percent of the petroleum consumed in the state.[4] Generally the price of gasoline in the state tracks closely but below the national average.[6][7] According to the EIA's February 2014 report, the federal excise tax is 18.40 cents per gallon of gasoline and 24.40 cents per gallon of diesel fuel. In addition to that, South Carolina collects a total tax of 16.8 cents on every gallon of gasoline, gasohol diesel fuel, which ranks it at the 47th highest in the United States.[8][9]

Comparisons tables

See also: State Energy Rankings to compare all 50 states

The table below compares South Carolina’s consumption and spending for energy, as well as prices for natural gas and electricity, and carbon emissions to those of Tennessee, which has similar population, resources and consumption needs because of climate and geography. Also given are the U.S. averages and the state rankings. All rankings are from highest to lowest, so, for example,

  • South Carolina’s rank of 26th in carbon emissions means that carbon emissions are lower in South Carolina than in Tennessee, which has a ranking of 18th.
  • Likewise, per capita income in South Carolina is lower than the national average, and lower than in Tennessee, which at 35th ranks 14 places in front of South Carolina’s ranking of 49th in per capita income.
  • These two states are somewhat similar in population, per capita consumption and per capita spending. Per capita energy consumption in South Carolina (at 19th) is slightly higher than in Tennessee (at 20th), but per capita spending in South Carolina is similar because it ranks 24th to Tennessee's ranking of 22nd. This is somewhat surprising because gas prices are mid-ranked in both states but electricity prices are much higher in South Carolina which was ranked at the 20th highest price and Tennessee at 40th.[4]
Consumption and Expenditures Comparisons Summary
Type South CarolinaTennesseeU.S. Figures
FigureU.S. Rank*FigureU.S. Rank*Totals
Population4.8 million246.5 million17313.9 million
Per Capita Income Average$34,26649$37,67835$42,693
Total Consumption1,610 trillion BTU22$2,201 trillion BTU1597,301 quadrillion BTU
Per Capita Energy Consumption345 million BTU19344 million BTU20312 million BTU
Total Spending on Energy$21,175 million25$29,699 million15$1,394,088 million
Per Capita Spending on Energy$4,53124$4,64122$4,474
Price of Residential Natural Gas, dollar per thousand cubic feet$11.3019$9.6530$12.48
Price of Electricity, cents per kWh11.852010.014012.31
Total Carbon Dioxide Emissions, million metric tons (2010)8426107.1185,631
*Rank is from highest to lowest.

Electricity is the main home heating source in South Carolina, it's used in 68.5 percent of homes. Natural gas is the next most common home heating source, it is used in 23.7 percent of homes.[4]

Consumption of energy for heating homes in South Carolina
Source South Carolina 2011 U.S. average 2011
Natural gas 23.7% 49.5%
Fuel oil 1.5% 6.5%
Electricity 68.5% 35.4%
Liquid Petroleum Gases (LPG) 4.6% 5%
Other/none 1.7% 3.6%

Production and transmission

South Carolina produced 661.6 BTU of energy in 2011. Of that 84 percent came from nuclear and the remaining 16 percent came from what the U.S. Energy Information Administration classifies as 'other,' which is "assumed to equal consumption of all renewable energies except biofuels."[4]

Energy production by type in South Carolina, 2011
Type Amount Generated
(trillion BTU)
% of State % of USA
Nuclear 553.6 83.68% 6.7%
Other 108.1 16.34% 1.52%

Electricity consumed in South Carolina comes primarily from its four nuclear energy plants, which produces more than half of the state total. The power plants are supplied by coal, natural gas and lesser amounts renewable resources. South Carolina produces more electricity than it consumes and the surplus energy is sold to other states. Coal supplies about 33 percent of electricity generation. The Port of Charleston is the shipyard river terminal for importing resources. Nuclear power plants supply the majority of the state's electricity. From 2008 to 2012 demand in the electric power sector has doubled for this resource. Two interstate pipelines from the Gulf Coast deliver natural gas to Georgia to South Carolina.[4]

To a lesser extent, renewable energies including hydroelectric, biomass from wood waste, landfill gas and municipal solid waste also supply the power-plants and produce energy for the state. South Carolina produced 192 thousand MWh of hydroelectric energy and 156 thousand MWh from biomass, landfill gas and municipal solid waste.[4]

Where electricity comes from in South Carolina[10]
Type Amount generated (MWh) % of state** % of U.S.**
Petroleum-fired 10,000 0.15% 0.03%
Natural gas-fired 694,000 10.15% 0.07%
Coal-fired 2,226,000 32.54% 0.13%
Nuclear 3,617,000 52.88% 0.46%
Hydroelectric 192,000 2.81% 0.06%
Other renewables 156,000 2.28% 0.08%
Total net electricity generation 6,840,000 100% 0.17%
**Note: Because the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) does not include all of a state's energy production in these figures, the EIA totals do not equal 100 percent. Instead, we have generated our own percentages.

In South Carolina there are currently 27 electric utilities and 16 natural gas utilities.[11][12]

Most of the coal used in electricity generation is shipped into South Carolina by rail from Kentucky. South Carolina was the largest market for Bell County steam coal in 2012. During that year, 2.2 millions tons of Kentucky's coal were shipped to South Carolina's seven power plants.[13]

Energy policy

Policy Issues

Electricity prices in South Carolina are the highest among the southern states. This may be due to the fact that the state gets two-fifths of its electricity from coal-fired nuclear plants. Coal is being more heavily regulated, due to its carbon emissions, and this leads to higher prices for the resource and for the electricity it produces.[4][14][15]

See also: Fracking in South Carolina

Energy policy is made, executed and influenced by many organizations, both public and private, and is codified in the laws and regulations of the state. Each state’s energy policy involves trade-offs in which energy production and prices are weighed against environmental concerns and efficiency. South Carolina was one of the 20 states in 2012 that did not have a renewable portfolio standard (RPS). RPS require investor-owned utilities and electric cooperatives to obtain a minimum percentage of the electricity sold to customers to come from renewable energy resources. The South Carolina Energy Office (SCEO) encourages renewable energy practices and sustainable development statewide through biomass, wind, solar, small hydropower, geothermal and hydrogen sources. Energy standards have been adopted for most buildings, with more stringent codes for state buildings.[16][17][18]

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) is a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving energy efficiency policy in the United States. Each year, they rank each state by their energy efficiency policies. South Carolina ranked 39th, with a score of 11.5 out of 50, on the Energy Efficiency Scorecard.[19] There are differing estimates about the economic impact of these mandates in terms of costs that may affect prices and jobs, as well as the impact on the environment and pollution. Thus, for example, there are many new studies of what is called the "rebound effect" which refers to the fact that "some of the theoretically estimated gains in energy efficiency will be eroded as consumers consume additional goods and services."[20][21]

Major legislation

  • The South Carolina Building Energy Efficiency Standard Act (1979) implements a statewide construction building code. South Carolina adopted a notable update to the building energy code in 2012. South Carolina requires that public buildings create energy conservation plans to minimize their energy consumption by 20 percent by 2020.[22][23]
  • Title 58 of the South Carolina Code of Laws, Energy Supply and Efficiency, was adopted by the South Carolina Public Service Commission in 1992. It requires electrical utilities and public utilities providing gas resources to invest in cost-effective energy efficient technologies and conservation programs. These actions must: provide incentives and cost recovery for energy suppliers and distributors, and must make the programs as financially attractive in order to construct new facilities. It also require the Public Service Commission to regulate rates.[24]
  • The Base Load Review Act (2007) effectively reduces the cost of constructing nuclear power plants in the state by allowing annual adjustable regulated rates on utilities. This will allow the plants to recover related financial costs.[25][26]
  • The Hydrogen Infrastructure Development Act (2007) provides up to $15 million in incentives for renewable fuels, hydrogen and biomass energy. The act also tries to encourage the use of flexible-fuel, electric, hydrogen and hybrid vehicles through sales tax rebates. In passing this law, the general assembly hopes to support South Carolina's economy and establish a foundation for research and commercialization activities to create higher paying jobs that benefit all residents.[27][28]
  • H.3620 and Proviso 73.12(29)(B) (2007) provides $150,000 to the South Carolina Department of Agriculture. The amount is meant to support a biofuels marketing program that will increase public awareness on biofuels in the state. A one-time allotment of $250,000 is added for biodiesel and ethanol testing equipment to research and monitor alternative fuels sold in South Carolina. Recurring monies will be available for staff to further test the fuels.[29]
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State energy policy

State fracking policy

Energy policy terms

Fracking in the U.S.

Energy use in the U.S.

Energy policy in the U.S.

State environmental policy

Energy and Environmental News

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Government agencies and committees

  • The South Carolina Public Service Commission (PSC) is an independent regulatory agency that has been regulating South Carolina's public utilities since 1910, including those that are municipally-owned. Types of utilities regulated include electric, natural gas, water, combined water and sewer utilities, telecommunications companies, motor carriers of household goods, hazardous waste disposal and taxicabs. The PSC is composed of seven commissioners. They are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state senate for staggered, six-year terms.[31]
  • The South Carolina Energy Office, through the Plan for State Energy Policy, makes resources available to assist citizens, public entities and businesses in saving energy and money through energy efficiency. Their programs include technical assistance, financial assistance, workshops, public awareness, informative materials and project grants, loans and rebates.[32]
  • The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources oversees the state's wildlife, marine and natural resources. The department was organized on July 1, 1994 from the former Wildlife and Marine Resources Department, Water Resources Commission, Land Resources Commission, State Geological Survey, and the Migratory Waterfowl Committee. The department is managed by the South Carolina Director of Natural Resources.[33]

Major organizations

  • The Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) is the development and applied research center at the U.S. Department of Energy's Savannah River Site. The site provides for cost-effective, state-of-the-art science and high-value, practical solutions to energy problems. Staff members work toward objectives such as using hydrogen as an energy source.[34]
  • Greenway Energy LLC consults, develops and educates their clients on fuel cells. Engineers with expertise in both environmental and chemical engineering make up the Greenway Energy team. Innovative and timely solutions are their goal, while also pursuing system development and educating future employees in the fuel cell field.[35]
  • The Applied Research Center (ARC) conducts research to create new technologies for commercial production. It is open for government, commercial, industrial and academic groups. ARC is focused on four initiatives: hydrogen, renewables, microwave and labs. These initiatives combine in a collaborative effort to discover sustainable solutions for the urgent energy demand both now and in the future. The center's objectives include advancing their research, developing commercial application and reaching out through private and public partnerships.[36]
  • Clemson College of Engineering and Science Energy Program is preparing their college students to assist employees new to renewable energy and help them integrate new forms of energy into the grid system. They do this through educational programs, which cover wind and solar energy, and power systems, and renewable energy certificates. Through these programs the organization hopes to assist in significantly increasing the use of renewable energy sources.[37]

In the news

This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the term "South+Carolina+Energy+Policy"

All stories may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of the search engine.

South Carolina Energy News Feed

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See also

External links


  1. National Association of State Energy Officials, "South Carolina," accessed March 9, 2014
  2. These figures come from the U.S. Energy Information Administration State Profiles and Energy Estimates, South Carolina Overview. Statistics for population and per capita income are for the year 2012; consumption and spending estimates are for 2011; and prices are for October 2013. Updated pricing information is available on the state's EIA profile. Prices will be updated on this page biannually.
  3. U.S. Energy Information Administration, "South Carolina Overview," accessed March 1, 2014
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 U.S. Energy Information Administration, "South Carolina Profile Analysis," December 18, 2013
  5. This chart depicts the state's energy consumption as reported by the EIA for 2011. Click the image to enlarge.
  6. Gas Buddy, “Historical Gas Charts,” accessed March 1, 2014
  7. To compare current gasoline prices in South Carolina to the U.S averages, go to
  8. U.S. Energy Information Administration, "Petroleum Marketing Monthly," February 2014
  9. The Tax Foundation, "State Gasoline Tax Rates, 2009-2013," March 21, 2013
  10. These figures come from the EIA State Profiles and Energy Estimates U.S. Energy Information Administration, "South Carolina Overview," accessed March 1, 2014
  11. South Carolina Electric Utilities, "South Carolina Electric Utilities," January 2011
  12. South Carolina Electric Utilities, "South Carolina Natural Gas Utilities," January 2011
  13. Department for Energy Development and Independence, "Kentucky Coal Facts," accessed March 1, 2014
  14. The Post and Courier, "South Carolina has the highest residential electricity cost in the South, mostly due to SCE&G rates," accessed March 11, 2014
  15. Institute for Energy Research, "Pennsylvania RPS," accessed February 27, 2014
  16. According to a report called "The Status of Renewable Electricity Mandates in the States," by the free-market Institute for Energy Research, the cost of electricity in states with RPS were on average 38 percent higher in 2010 than in states without a RPS.
  17. Institute for Energy Research, "The Status of Renewable Electricity Mandates in the States," accessed March 24, 2014
  18. Manhattan Institute, "The High Cost of Renewable-Energy Mandates," February 2012
  19. American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, "State Energy Efficiency Policy Database," accessed February 27, 2014
  20. International Risk Governance Council, "The Rebound Effect: Implications of Consumer Behavior for Robust Energy Policies," accessed March 3, 2014
  21. Scientific American, "How Bad Is the Rebound from Energy Efficiency Efforts?," May 21, 2013
  22. U.S. Energy Information Administration, "Scout Carolina State Energy Profile," accessed March 1, 2014
  23. American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, "South Carolina Energy Efficiency Policy Database," accessed March 1, 2014
  24. South Carolina Legislature, "Title 58-Public Utilities, Services and Carriers," accessed March 1, 2014
  25. PR Newswire, "SCE&G Files for Rate Adjustment Under Base Load Review Act," accessed March 1, 2014
  26. South Carolina General Assembly, "A16, R28, S431," accessed March 1, 2014
  27. Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, "South Carolina Passes Five Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Laws," accessed March 1, 2014
  28. South Carolina General Assembly, "Hydrogen Infrastructure Development Act," accessed March 1, 2014
  29. Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, "South Carolina Passes Five Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Laws," accessed March 1, 2014
  30. South Carolina Legislature, South Carolina Energy Advisory Council, accessed March 1, 2014
  31. South Carolina Public Service Commission, "Home," accessed March 1, 2014
  32. South Carolina Energy Office, "South Carolina," accessed March 1, 2014
  33. South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, "History," accessed January 18, 2013
  34. Savannah River National Laboratory, "About SRNL," accessed March 1, 2014
  35. GreenWay Energy, "About," accessed March 1, 2014
  36. Applied Research Center, "2013 ACR Brochure," accessed March 1, 2014
  37. The Holcombe Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Clemson College of Engineering and Science, "Energy Programs," accessed March 1, 2014