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SC lawmakers introduce joint resolution to study electricity market reform

A trio of South Carolina lawmakers has introduced a joint resolution that calls for the creation of a special committee to study whether the South Carolina Legislature should adopt certain electricity market reforms.

South Carolina Sens. Paul Campbell Jr., Wes Climer and Tom Davis on Jan. 14 introduced Senate Bill 998 in the South Carolina General Assembly. The bill currently resides in the South Carolina Senate Committee on Judiciary.

The legislation, if approved, would create the 18-member Electricity Market Reform Measures Study Committee. Three members of the South Carolina House of Representatives and three members of the state Senate would comprise the voting members of the study committee.

The nonvoting members would include the director of the South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff, the South Carolina president of Duke Energy Corp. and the president of Dominion Energy Inc. subsidiary Dominion Energy South Carolina Inc., or their designees. Other nonvoting members include representatives of commercial consumers, industrial customers, business and environmental advocates, South Carolina's electric cooperatives, municipal power associations, renewable power developers, energy conservationists and the president of local utility Lockhart Power Co., or a designee.

The committee would be tasked with studying whether the state should adopt a variety of electricity market reforms, including whether South Carolina should form its own regional transmission organization or join an existing RTO.

In addition, the committee would evaluate whether the state should establish an energy imbalance market, require vertically integrated electric utilities to divest of their generation and/or transmissions assets, enable full retail choice for electricity consumers, enable partial retail choice for nonresidential customers, authorize community choice aggregation, redesign the role of the distribution system operator to enable a modernized distribution grid and explore establishing an independent distribution system operator and distribution-level electricity markets, and study whether to accelerate the state's ability to achieve 100% emissions-free generation.

The study must assess "at a minimum" the legal and procedural requirements, as well as the potential costs and benefits to ratepayers, of potential market reform measures.

The study committee also would be tasked with submitting a report and recommendation to the General Assembly by March 15, 2021.

"A recommendation that the state take action shall be based upon a finding by a majority of the voting members that one or more electricity market reform measures is in the public interest, taking into consideration the expected consumer benefits of the electricity market reform measures, and is otherwise consistent with the provision of reliable and safe electric service to ratepayers in South Carolina and within the balancing authority of the electrical utility," the bill states.

The legislation also calls for funding to retain a third party, independent consultant that would serve as an adviser to the committee and submit its own opinion to the General Assembly "as to what market reform measures, if any, would benefit South Carolina consumers."