HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – A new fee for solar power users in the area will go into effect in 2016.
A Santee Cooper spokeswoman says the new plan will include a monthly charge of $4 per kilowatt. It's known as a "stand-by charge".
She says the cost is to cover the fixed rates for electricity that must be readily available to everyone, even if they use solar energy. Because on rainy days or at night, the solar panels do not take in power.
WMBF News was told the average home in Santee Cooper's area takes in about 4 kilowatts of power.
Tom Ferraro, with Carolina Energy Conservation says it makes sense to go green and invest in solar energy, but Santee Cooper's new plan will discourage people from doing it. "If your rates are too high on your utility, you can't change. you can't go to another utility. It's a monopoly. So solar is the only answer. But when the rates are that high, nobody is going to want to do it, so basically they have all their customers in a group, and they just keep raising their rates," Ferraro said.
Santee Cooper says the total additional cost for homes with solar energy will vary from house to house, but they will buy back unused energy from the homes at wholesale value.
However, Ferraro says that price simply doesn't match others in the state.
"Horry Electric, Duke Progress, SCE&G, all the other utilities in the state do net metering which is where you get paid the same rate when you sell it back as what you buy it for. Which is great and that helps people save money on solar. Santee Cooper doesn't do that," Ferraro explained.