When we opened City Roots, South Carolina’s first urban farm, in 2009, we set out to grow the best possible products in the most sustainable way to meet our customers’ needs. We knew that our business plan needed not only to provide high quality food to support our families, but also to provide this food in a way that limits its impact on the environment. That approach has worked and we have had the opportunity to grow.
As City Roots has expanded, we have sought to offset our footprint by generating electricity from rooftop solar panels that harvest solar energy, rather than relying on traditional power sources. After all, we are farmers and it is our job to harvest the sun. But solar isn’t the only thing. That’s good for our business and our customers. Currently, when considering adding solar, I’m worried about Dominion’s suggestion to change the solar plan in a way that would have some negative impact on CityRoots in the short or long term.
If the Public Services Commission approves Dominion’s request, the base charge paid by residential and small business customers for solar power will be doubled and the new full charge will be applied above. Dominion is also trying to short-change solar customers who sell their electricity back to the grid, reducing the amount Dominion pays. However, when the grid is powered, Dominion sells it to other customers at a higher price. These changes will initially affect new PV customers, but ultimately our customers who have been using PV for some time.
The Energy Freedom Act of 2019 promises the freedom for both homeowners and businesses to contribute to power supply and level the competition for utilities. Given our state’s vision for the future of clean energy, Dominion Energy proposes a high-priced PV structure that discourages new PV customers and ultimately punishes existing PV customers. It’s a shame to see it do.
Here we are trying to do something good for the families and communities we support. Dominion is throwing a very costly barrier.
But we remain tenacious because we can see the sacrifices that changes in climate and weather patterns are making to our state. Our weather patterns are becoming more extreme and unpredictable, and as they are a safer way to grow microgreens, we are heading towards heavy greenhouses that consume large amounts of capital and energy. When hurricanes and “rain bombs” hit South Carolina, climate-stimulated weather patterns determine our business decisions. But by playing our role in producing energy that does not pollute our air or water, we can make a difference and reduce costs.
City Roots is trying to do the right thing depending on the environment and the customer, but Dominion is not. Farmers are businessmen, and as businessmen, you can understand why Dominions are threatened by the number of South Carolinas who are beginning to generate their power. The more power a customer generates on their own, the less power the customer buys from Dominion. In this case, the “market threat” felt by Dominion indicates that our energy market is not designed to maximize Dominion’s profits from customer needs and sustainability efforts. ..
Given that South Carolina and Virginia sun prices are the same, I’m particularly worried that South Carolina customers are being offered very different and much worse deals than Dominion-based customers. It has been. Expect the Public Services Commission to insist that Dominion keep the door open for investment in clean, renewable energy from the sun. On our side, we would like to continue to supply the community and grid by harvesting the sun.
Eric McClam is the owner of City Roots, South Carolina’s first urban organic farm, internationally recognized for the production of USDA organic vegetables, microgreens and agricultural tourism.