Vote Solar begins work in Pennsylvania, pushes for greater renewable commitment


One of the first pieces of legislation supported by Vote Solar in Pennsylvania has been introduced to the state’s Senate.

The bill would amend the state’s 2004 Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS) Act to increase Pennsylvania’s renewable energy goal from 8% by 2026 to 18%.

Beyond that renewable energy mandate, the bill includes a carveout calling for 5.5% to come from solar energy by 2026, a bump over the current 0.5% goal, which Vote Solar said it expects to be surpassed this May.

That carveout isn’t intended just to put more solar on the grid. The Finding Pennsylvania Solar Future Project claimed that increasing the solar portion of the state’s electricity mix from 0.5% to 10% by 2030 would create upwards of 100,000 jobs and result in a net economic benefit of $1.6 billion annually. Ratcheting up the goal to 5% is a first step.

March Madness

This March has been one of the busiest months ever for solar in Pennsylvania, at least from a legislative/commitment perspective.

On March 22, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) announced that the state would power nearly half of the government’s electricity needs through seven new solar energy arrays totaling 191 MW, while it also would cut its energy use at least 3% annually. The state also would replace one-quarter of its vehicle fleet with electric vehicles, and aim for high-performance energy standards in building construction, lease, or renovation.

Two days later, lawmakers introduced legislation that would make it possible for two or more entities to subscribe for electricity generated by a solar photovoltaic system no larger than 5 MW in size, a way of legalizing community solar.

Many solar developers in the state also anticipate a pair of key solar programs, HB531 and SB705, to be implemented in the near future. An analysis done by the College of Agricultural Studies at Penn State University found that around 1 GW of solar power is ready to break ground, pending the approval of those two bills. The projects reportedly have signed agreements, as well as some sort of interconnection and permitting in place.

Taken together, all this legislation, if enacted, would vault Pennsylvania nationally in terms of state commitments to and procurement of solar energy. Once a mid-Atlantic haven for coal and fracked natural gas, the Keystone State could be making a swift solar transition right before our eyes.

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