Where the 2018 Candidates Stand on Energy: Democratic Nominee for South Carolina Governor James Smith

Chris Carnevale | August 29, 2018 | Elections, South Carolina

This post is the third in a series of blogs examining where the 2018 candidates for state and federal offices in the Southeast stand on key energy and climate issues. SACE’s Sarah Gilliam and Chris Carnevale collaborated on this post. To read the candidate profile for Republican Nominee for South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, click here.

Note: The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy does not support or oppose candidates or political parties. Links to reports, candidate websites and outside sources are provided as citizen education tools.

Candidate: James E. Smith

James Smith is the Democratic candidate for South Carolina governor and currently serves in the South Carolina House of Representatives, representing District 72 (Richland County). He has served in the state House of Representatives since 1997 and worked on many energy issues in the past year as a founding member of the bipartisan S.C. Energy Caucus and a member of the House Judiciary Committee, which reviewed many of the energy-related bills this year.


James Smith’s campaign website states: “When James Smith is governor, he will pursue economic development opportunities in emerging fields to ensure South Carolina stays on the cutting edge. As governor, he will expand the growth in solar and renewable energy.”

Also from his campaign website: “In the Legislature, James and Mandy [Mandy Powers Norrel is Smith’s running mate] champion legislation that would expand solar and wind energy in the Palmetto State. He is the prime sponsor of the bipartisan bill that would lift the cap on solar power. Once elected, they will push ahead with their comprehensive, 21st-century energy policy for South Carolina, one that strengthens our state with more and better jobs and lower costs for consumers. And they will protect ratepayers against the bullying greed of the big utilities.” The bill in reference is H. 4421, the South Carolina Electric Consumer Bill of Rights, which we blogged about in April. The bill garnered the support of the large majority of members of the House of Representatives, but was opposed by utilities and ultimately killed by an obscure procedural rule. Rep. Smith also voted for Act 236, the landmark solar bill passed in 2014.

In the Democratic gubernatorial debate earlier this year, Rep. Smith stated support for offshore wind energy.

Energy Efficiency

Rep. Smith’s support for energy efficiency is evident through his co-sponsorship earlier this year of the bill H. 4425, the Public Utility Consumer Protection Act, which sought to “require a utility to submit energy efficiency plans.” Generally, H. 4425 would have set energy efficiency targets for utilities and ensured that utilities were publicly considering all possible cost effective energy efficiency strategies. This bill did not make it out of committee.

Fossil Fuels

James Smith is opposed to drilling for oil and gas off the coast of South Carolina. His website states: “James understands the importance of our 19-billion dollar tourism industry, and will fight tooth-and-nail to block offshore drilling and exploration off our coast. Our coastline is our treasure, a magnet to visitors and businesses drawn to our beaches, inlets and ports. It’s hard to imagine a greater threat to our state’s economy than drilling off our beaches.” Rep. Smith gave a speech at the bipartisan anti-offshore drilling rally at the South Carolina State House in February.

Climate Change

We could not find mention of climate change in James Smith’s campaign materials or publicly available information. The only reference to global warming is this tweet seeming to express disbelief that a Republican gubernatorial primary candidate, John Warren, does not believe in global warming.


James Smith introduced a bill, the Public Utility Consumer Protection Act (H. 4425) in January of this year, which sought to accomplish several different energy-related policy goals, including ending the policy of electricity customers being forced to pay in advance for under-construction nuclear reactors. While this bill did not make it out of committee, Rep. Smith co-sponsored and voted several times in favor of another bill, H. 4375, which accomplished the same policy goal and ultimately passed into law this summer, ensuring that customers will not be saddled with the costs of another nuclear power plant fiasco and that the amount that SCE&G customers are currently paying toward the cancelled V.C. Summer nuclear project is reduced from 18% of their power bill to 3% of the bill.

Clean Transportation

We could not find any mention of clean transportation or electric vehicles in James Smith’s campaign materials or publicly available information.

We encourage you to register and then vote this November. Click here for voting resources provided by the South Carolina Board of Elections.  If you are inspired by this blog and have questions for the candidate, please contact his campaign here.

Chris Carnevale
Chris is SACE’s Climate Advocacy Director. Chris joined the SACE staff in 2011 to help with building public understanding and engagement around clean energy solutions to the climate crisis. Chris…
My Profile