New regulations in South Carolina are now in effect to ensure that consumers who buy or lease renewable solar panel systems have been provided the pertinent information and resources necessary to make a responsible financial decision about renewable energy.
The South Carolina Energy Freedom Act (Act 62) directed the Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) to develop consumer protection regulations applicable to the leasing of renewable energy generation facilities. Act 62 also directed the Department of Consumer Affairs to develop consumer protection regulations for the sales of renewable energy generation facilities.
The parties worked together, with guidance from various stakeholders and regulations from other jurisdictions, to draft each department’s proposed regulations. The ORS went through two rounds of publication and comments in the State Register in 2020, and the final proposal was submitted to the General Assembly for review earlier this year. Receiving no opposition, the ORS’ proposed regulation passed by default on May 12, 2021, and became effective on May 28, 2021.
These regulations are intended to provide a consumer-protection framework to govern the practices of lessors, in part by requiring lessors to provide appropriate disclosures to help consumers make well-informed decisions prior to entering into a lease for a renewable energy generation facility, and by providing a formal complaint process for dispute resolution.
By requiring lease agreements to include certain information, the ORS’ goal is to ensure consumers have the necessary information to make fully informed decisions when entering into leases for renewable energy generation facilities. Leases must include the contact information for the ORS Consumer Services department, copies of any applicable warranties, and clear explanations of all payments, interest, and fees that will be paid under the terms of the lease.
The regulations also formalize the complaint process for assisting consumers with disputes arising out of the lease agreements. Under the ORS’ regulations, depending on the nature of the violation, a variety of remedies and penalties are provided such as voiding the lease agreement, monetary fines assessed on the lessor, or suspension of the lessor’s operations.