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South Carolina   South Carolina Profile

State Profile and Energy Estimates

Profile AnalysisPrint State Energy Profile
(overview, data, & analysis)

Last Updated: August 17, 2017

Overview

South Carolina’s industrial sector is the largest end-use energy-consuming sector in the state.

South Carolina is located on the U.S. East Coast halfway between New York City and Miami, Florida. Although the state does not have any fossil fuel reserves or production, it does have renewable resources.1,2 South Carolina's topography gradually rises from its Atlantic Ocean islands in the southeast to the Blue Ridge Mountains in the northwest. The coastal plain, which covers two-thirds of South Carolina, is also known as the Low Country and extends westward across the swamps and flatlands of the outer coastal plain to the fertile low hills of South Carolina's inner coastal plain until it reaches the Fall Line, an area of waterfalls and rapids. The remaining one-third of the state, known as the Up Country, has the forested hills of the Piedmont region and South Carolina's mountains.3,4 The state is crossed by many large rivers that flow from the western Up Country to the ocean, and South Carolina's system of rivers and lakes provides considerable hydropower potential.5 With about two-thirds of South Carolina forested, the wood waste from the state's forests, lumber mills, and wood products industry yields significant amounts of biomass.6 Methane from landfills in more densely populated areas provides South Carolina with additional biomass resources.7 However, South Carolina's primary energy resource is its nuclear power capacity.8

The largest end-use energy-consuming sector in South Carolina is the industrial sector.9 South Carolina's manufacturing activities include aeronautical and automotive assembly; chemicals and plastics; paper and wood products; fabricated metal products and primary metals; machinery; electrical equipment, computers, and electronic products; food products and processing; and textiles.10,11 The transportation sector uses almost as much energy as the industrial sector, primarily in the form of motor gasoline. Although South Carolina's coastal islands and beaches, hot and humid summers, and mild winters draw tourists and new residents to this southeastern state, the residential sector uses only two-thirds as much energy as the industrial sector.12,13,14

Petroleum

South Carolina has no crude oil reserves or production, and there are no petroleum refineries in the state.15 All petroleum products arrive from out of state, entering South Carolina at the Port of Charleston or arriving from the Gulf Coast by way of refined product pipelines.16,17 Petroleum coke, which provides fuel for industrial processes like aluminum smelting at South Carolina's Mount Holly smelting plant, is handled at the Port of Georgetown.18,19,20

South Carolina's total petroleum consumption is near the national median.21 Almost all of the petroleum used in the state is consumed by the transportation sector, primarily by automobiles.22,23 Motor gasoline consumption per capita in South Carolina is among the highest in the nation, in part because of sales to nonresidents who travel on the state's major interstate corridors.24,25,26 Although South Carolina has no ethanol plants and blended gasoline is not required in the state, nearly 2% of the nation's fuel ethanol consumption occurs in South Carolina.27,28,29 Only 1 in 20 South Carolina households use petroleum products, primarily propane, for home heating.30

Natural gas

Natural gas consumption by the electric power sector has almost tripled in the past decade.

Because South Carolina has no natural gas reserves or production, all natural gas consumed in the state arrives via interstate pipeline. Several major interstate pipeline systems transport natural gas from the Gulf Coast and deliver it through Georgia to South Carolina. The state consumes substantial amounts of natural gas, but, because of the large volumes in the interstate pipeline system, almost two-thirds of the supply that enters South Carolina continues on to markets in North Carolina and further north.31,32,33

Natural gas use in South Carolina has increased in the past decade, most dramatically in the electric power sector, where consumption has almost tripled.34,35 The electric power sector's use of natural gas has exceeded that of any other sector since 2009. Industrial demand has remained fairly constant, and the industrial sector, which had led the state in natural gas use prior to 2009, is now the second-largest natural gas consuming-sector in the state.36

In terms of natural gas consumption per capita, South Carolina is among the lowest one-fourth of states.37,38 Winters are generally mild, making overall demand for heating in the state relatively low. Although more than one in five South Carolina households use natural gas for home heating, residential sector natural gas consumption is less than that of the electric power sector and the industrial sector.39,40

Coal

South Carolina does not have any coal reserves or production.41 Coal is used almost exclusively for electricity generation, and fuel for South Carolina's coal-fired power plants arrives by rail from Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and West Virginia.42 Coal arrives from overseas at the Port of Charleston, and minor amounts of coal are exported from that port, as well.43 Coal also is delivered to industrial plants in the state.44

Electricity

South Carolina ranks third in the nation in nuclear generating capacity.

Nuclear energy leads electricity generation in South Carolina, and the state's largest power plant is a nuclear facility.45 Ranked third in the nation in nuclear generating capacity and annual generation, South Carolina produces almost three-fifths of its net electricity generation from nuclear power.46,47 There are seven operating reactors at four nuclear power plants in the state. Construction of two additional reactors has ceased, and abandonment of the projects is planned.48,49 In 2016, coal-fired power plants supplied slightly more than one-fifth of the state's electricity generation. Two of South Carolina's five largest power plants by capacity are coal-fired, but those plants supply about half as much electricity as they did a decade ago.50,51 In contrast, the contribution from natural gas-fired power plants has almost tripled over the same period, and natural gas supplied one-sixth of the state's total. Almost all of the remaining electricity generation was provided by renewable resources, including conventional and pumped hydroelectric power plants, biomass-fueled facilities that use wood waste or landfill gas, and solar energy.52,53,54 South Carolina generates more electricity than it consumes and sends its surplus to other states.55

Per capita retail electricity sales in South Carolina are among the highest in the nation, in part because of the high demand for air conditioning during the hot and humid summer months. The largest share of retail electricity sales in the state are to the residential sector, where 7 in 10 South Carolina households use electricity as their primary energy source for home heating.56,57,58,59

Renewable energy

Hydropower and biomass, South Carolina's primary renewable resources, supply about 5% of the state's total net electricity generation.60 There are dozens of hydroelectric generating plants in South Carolina, including several large pumped storage facilities. Most of the hydroelectric facilities are located in the western part of the state. Additional hydropower development potential exists at sites throughout South Carolina.61,62

Biomass contributes almost as much to South Carolina's net generation as hydropower.63 The state has more than 13 million acres of forest, and forestry is a leading industry in South Carolina.64,65 Logging residue is considered to be the state's greatest source of underused biomass. It has been estimated that woody biomass could supply one-eighth of South Carolina's electricity needs.66 Additionally, there are two wood pellet plants in South Carolina, and the manufacture of wood pellets is a growing industry in the state.67,68 The U.S. Department of Energy, using biomass fuel from forest debris collected within 100 miles of its Savannah River Site in Aiken, South Carolina, has replaced coal-fired and petroleum-fired cogeneration facilities with generation fueled by biomass. The three biomass-fueled Savannah River cogeneration facilities have been in operation since 2012.69

Landfill gas is used to generate electricity at about 20 facilities in South Carolina. In 2001, Santee Cooper, South Carolina's largest electricity generator, became the first utility in the state to produce electricity using methane gas from landfills.70,71 The state's first anaerobic digester project came online in 2011, generating power from methane gas captured at a hog farm.72 South Carolina has biomass resources in the form of agricultural residues from corn, wheat, and soybean crops, as well.73 Although ethanol consumption in the state is near the national median, there are no ethanol production facilities in South Carolina.74 The state does have three biodiesel plants.75

South Carolina does not have any appreciable onshore wind energy resource and does not have any installed wind capacity, but manufacturers and assemblers of wind turbine components are located in the state.76,77 A small but increasing share of South Carolina's renewable generation comes from solar resources, primarily as distributed (small-scale, customer-sited) generation.78,79 Geothermal resource applications in South Carolina focus on geothermal heat pumps.80

South Carolina law encourages the use of renewable resources. In 2014, South Carolina's legislature authorized the creation of a voluntary Distributed Energy Resource Program for electric utilities and required the Public Service Commission to develop accompanying net metering rules. The legislation's goal is to encourage the development of in-state renewable energy generation capacity by allowing a participating utility to recover costs connected with meeting the utility's renewable generation target. The program has a target of 2% of aggregate generation capacity from renewable resources by 2021, half from facilities with capacities between 1 and 10 megawatts and half from facilities with capacities of less than 1 megawatt.81 The state also offers tax credits to encourage the use of solar technologies and small hydropower.82 Additionally, in 2007, South Carolina established energy standards for public buildings requiring the development of energy conservation plans. The ultimate conservation goal is a 20% reduction in energy use from year 2000 levels by 2020.83

Endnotes

1 U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), South Carolina Profile Data, Reserves and Supply, accessed July 18, 2017.
2 U.S. EIA, State Energy Production Estimates 1960 Through 2015, Table P2, Energy Production Estimates in Trillion Btu, 2015.
3 NETSTATE, South Carolina, The Geography of South Carolina, accessed July 18, 2017.
4 World Atlas, South Carolina Geography, accessed July 18, 2017.
5 South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, South Carolina State Water Assessment, Chapter 9, Special Topics (2009).
6 South Carolina Forestry Commission, The State of SC's Forests, By the Numbers: 2015, accessed July 18, 2017.
7 U.S. EIA, South Carolina Profile Overview, Map Layer, Biomass Power Plant, accessed July 18, 2017.
8 U.S. EIA, State Energy Production Estimates 1960 Through 2015, Table P2, Energy Production Estimates in Trillion Btu, 2015.
9 U.S. EIA, State Energy Consumption Estimates 1960 Through 2015, DOE/EIA-0214(2015) (June 2017), South Carolina Tables CT3, CT4, CT5, CT6, CT7, CT8.
10 South Carolina Department of Commerce, The SC Advantage, Industries, accessed July 19, 2017.
11 U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Interactive Data, GDP and Personal Income, Regional Data, Annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by State, GDP in current dollars, All industries, South Carolina, 2015.
12 U.S. EIA, State Energy Consumption Estimates 1960 Through 2015, DOE/EIA-0214(2015) (June 2017), South Carolina Tables CT3, CT4, CT5, CT6, CT7.
13 South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, South Carolina Beaches, accessed July 19, 2017.
14 "Governing Data, State-to-State Population Migration," Governing, accessed July 19, 2017.
15 U.S. EIA, South Carolina Profile Data, Reserves and Supply, accessed July 19, 2017.
16 U.S. EIA, South Carolina Profile Data, Distribution and Marketing, accessed July 19, 2017.
17 U.S. EIA, Petroleum and Other Liquids, Company Level Imports, accessed July 19, 2017.
18 World Port Source, Port of Georgetown, Port Commerce, accessed July 19, 2017.
19 National Association of Manufacturers, Petroleum Coke: Essential To Manufacturing, accessed July 19, 2017.
20 Century Aluminum, Mt. Holly, SC, accessed July 19, 2017.
21 U.S. EIA, State Energy Consumption Estimates 1960 Through 2015, DOE/EIA-0214(2015) (June 2017), Table C11, Energy Consumption Estimates by Source, Ranked by State, 2015.
22 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F15, Total Petroleum Consumption Estimates, 2015.
23 South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff, Energy Office, South Carolina Energy Statistical Highlights (October 2015), p. 9.
24 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F3, Motor Gasoline Consumption, Price, and Expenditure Estimates, 2015.
25 U.S. Census Bureau, State Population Totals Tables: 2010-2016, Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for the United States, Regions, States, and Puerto Rico: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2016 (NST-EST2016-01).
26 South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff, Energy Office, South Carolina Energy Statistical Highlights (October 2015), p. 10.
27 South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff, Energy Office, South Carolina Energy Statistical Highlights (October 2015), p. 10.
28 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F4, Fuel Ethanol Consumption Estimates, 2015.
29 U.S. EIA, South Carolina Profile Data, Environment, accessed July 20, 2017.
30 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, South Carolina, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2010-14 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimate.
31 U.S. EIA, South Carolina Profile Data, Reserves and Supply, accessed July 20, 2017.
32 U.S. EIA, South Carolina Profile Data, Distribution and Marketing, accessed July 20, 2017.
33 U.S. EIA, International and Interstate Movements of Natural Gas by State, South Carolina, 2010-15.
34 U.S. EIA, South Carolina Natural Gas Total Consumption, 1997-2015.
35 U.S. EIA, South Carolina Natural Gas Deliveries to Electric Power Consumers, 1997-2015.
36 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End Use, South Carolina, Annual, 2011-16.
37 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End Use, Total Consumption, Annual, 2011-16.
38 U.S. Census Bureau, State Population Totals Tables: 2010-2016, Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for the United States, Regions, States, and Puerto Rico: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2016 (NST-EST2016-01).
39 Mizzell, Hope, "Low Country, Upstate and a Lot of Weather in Between" -South Carolina's Climate, CoCoRaHS ‘State Climates' Series, accessed July 20, 2017.
40 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, South Carolina, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2011-15 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimate.
41 U.S. EIA, South Carolina Profile Data, Reserves and Supply, accessed July 22, 2016.
42 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Distribution Report 2015 (November 2016), South Carolina Table DS-38, Domestic Coal Distribution, by Destination State, 2015.
43 U.S. EIA, Quarterly Coal Report (Abbreviated) January-March 2016 (June 2017), Table 13, U.S. Coal Exports by Customs District, and Table 20, Coal Imports by Customs District.
44 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Distribution Report 2015 (November 2016), South Carolina Table DS-38, Domestic Coal Distribution, by Destination State, 2015.
45 U.S. EIA, South Carolina Electricity Profile 2015, Table 2A, Ten largest plants by generation capacity, 2015.
46 U.S. EIA, State Nuclear Profiles, accessed July 20, 2017.
47 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.3.B, 1.9.B.
48 U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, South Carolina, accessed August 8, 2017.
49 SCANA, "South Carolina Electric & Gas Company to cease construction and will file plan of abandonment of the new nuclear project," Press Release (July 31, 2017).
50 U.S. EIA, South Carolina Electricity Profile 2015, Table 2A, Ten largest plants by generation capacity, 2015.
51 U.S. EIA, South Carolina Electricity Profile 2015, Table 5, Electric power industry generation by primary energy source, 1990 through 2015.
52 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.3.B, 1.4.B, 1.7.B, 1.10.B, 1.11.B, 1.12.B, 1.15.B, 1.17.B.
53 South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, South Carolina State Water Assessment, Chapter 9, Special Topics (2009), Table 9-1, Existing hydroelectric power plants in and adjacent to South Carolina.
54 U.S. EIA, South Carolina Profile Overview, Map Layer, Biomass Power Plant, accessed July 20, 2017.
55 U.S. EIA, South Carolina Electricity Profile 2015, Table 10, Supply and disposition of electricity, 1990 through 2015, South Carolina.
56 U.S. EIA, 2009 RECS Survey Data, Air Conditioning, Table HC7.10, Air Conditioning in Homes in South Region, Divisions, and States, 2009.
57 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Table 5.4.B.
58 U.S. Census Bureau, State Population Totals Tables: 2010-2016, Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for the United States, Regions, States, and Puerto Rico: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2016 (NST-EST2016-01).
59 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, South Carolina, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2011-15 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimate.
60 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.3.B, 1.10.B, 1.15.B.
61 South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, South Carolina State Water Assessment, Chapter 9, Special Topics (2009), p. 9-2 to 9-7.
62 U.S. EIA, South Carolina Profile Overview, Map Layer, Hydroelectric Power Plant, accessed July 21, 2017.
63 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2016), Tables 1.10.B, 1.15.B.
64 South Carolina Forestry Commission, South Carolina Forest Industry Facts (February 24, 2014).
65 Melvin, Jim, "At $41.7 billion, agribusiness remains SC's No. 1 industry," The Newsstand, Clemson University Media Release (February 10, 2015).
66 South Carolina Forestry Commission, "Forestry Commission Releases Biomass Harvesting Guidelines," News Release (May 7, 2013).
67 "Woody Biomass Industry Emerging in S.C.," Forest Bioenergy Review (July 11, 2013).
68 Biomass Magazine, U.S. Pellet Plants, Operational, updated May 17, 2017.
69 Ameresco, Case Study, Department of Energy, Savannah River Site, SC, accessed July 21, 2017.
70 U.S. EIA, Electricity Form EIA-860 detailed data, 3_1 Generator Y2015, 2015 Form EIA-860 Data, Schedule 3, 'Generator Data' (Operable Units Only), accessed July 21, 2017.
71 Santee Cooper, Santee Cooper Fingertip Facts 2014, Who We Are, p. 3, accessed July 21, 2017.
72 Santee Cooper, South Carolina Public Service Authority (Santee Cooper) Integrated Resource Plan (November 2012), p. 27.
73 Harris, Robert A., et al., Final Report to the South Carolina Forestry Commission on Potential For Biomass Energy Development in South Carolina, p. 25, accessed July 21, 2017.
74 U.S. EIA, South Carolina Profile Data, Environment, accessed July 21, 2017.
75 Biodiesel Magazine, USA Plants, Existing, updated May 11, 2017.
76 U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, WINDExchange, South Carolina Wind Resource Map and Potential Wind Capacity, accessed July 21, 2017.
77 American Wind Energy Association, South Carolina Wind Energy, accessed July 21, 2017.
78 South Carolina Energy Office, South Carolina Energy Statistical Highlights (October 2015), p. 23.
79 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Table 1.17.B.
80 South Carolina Energy Office, Renewable Energy, Geothermal, accessed July 23, 2016.
81 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, South Carolina Distributed Energy Resource Program, updated August 21, 2015.
82 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, South Carolina, Solar Energy and Small Hydropower Tax Credit (Personal) (November 9, 2016).
83 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, South Carolina State Building Energy Standards, updated January 29, 2016.