The three utilities will market the renewable energy to the 1.3 million homes and businesses that they serve in the state, while the newly formed organization, dubbed Palmetto Clean Energy, or PaCE, will buy the power from small Southeastern companies that generate electricity with wind turbines, solar panels and landfill gas.
"We're going to be, I guess you'd call it a pass-through agency," said Tim Petty, a spokesman for Charlotte-based Duke Energy, which serves about 520,000 homes and businesses in South Carolina. The power will be sold in "blocks" of 100 kilowatt-hours, roughly enough to run a refrigerator for a month.
Though state officials are still determining the cost of the power, the average homeowner will pay between $40 and $50 to go entirely green, according to Dukes Scott, executive director of the state Office of Regulatory Staff, which set up the PaCE program. "It's not only for the utilities to kind of test the water without taking on big capital costs, but it allows ORS to kind of test the water a d see what's out there in terms of green production," Scott said.
The program is modeled after an arrangement launched in North Carolina in 2003. Almost 12,000 homes and businesses in the Tar Heel State buy enough green power to equal the carbon reduction realized by planting 4.2 million trees.
Santee Cooper, the state-owned utility based in Moncks Corner, has been selling renewable energy since 2001. But South Carolinians have been slow to turn green, and only a few thousand customers have paid premiums for the cleaner energy. South Carolina residents have long been able to offset their energy use by buying a like amount of renewable electricity to be fed onto the grid elsewhere in the country.
About 16 companies nationwide sell green power "tags," or credits, for between $5 and $75 per megawatt-hour. The firms use the money to erect wind turbines and solar panels or subsidize utilities that build green power plants.