Yesterday Philadelphia’s International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 98 gathered with city officials, solar business leaders and Vote Solar to urge Pennsylvania lawmakers to get solar power investment and job creation back on track by passing HB 1580 already. IBEW’s own solar powered facility served as the backdrop. It was a nice sunny day for a solar press conference. Kudos to Local 98 Business Manager John D. Dougherty for sneaking an “Always Sunny in Philadelphia” reference into his remarks. Well played sir.
In recent years, Pennsylvania had quickly become one of the nation’s fastest growing solar economies. Not coincidentally, the Solar Foundation’s most recent Solar Jobs Census ranked Pennsylvania an impressive fourth in the nation for solar-related jobs with nearly 5,000 people employed at 750 businesses.
The state’s 6,000 solar installations have supported thousands of high-quality local jobs, but they also equate to over three times more solar power than state law requires. In fact, it’s more than the state will need through 2014. Not good. With solar supply now far outpacing demand, new project installations are slowing and the once-thriving Pennsylvania solar job engine is grinding to a halt. A solution exists in Harrisburg: HB 1580 would increase the state’s solar goals for the next three years, making use of an industry ready to build more solar power today and making tomorrow’s aggressive solar goals more achievable.
Mr. Dougherty said it well: “Solar jobs are good, local jobs. Through the recession economy, this new industry provided a rare bright spot of job growth right here in Philadelphia, especially for the hard-hit construction sector. Without leadership from Harrisburg on HB 1580, those solar jobs will be put on hold until 2014. Pennsylvania can’t afford that kind of inaction.” He should know; his Local 98 members work in the electrical, telecommunications and broadcast industries in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties.
Mayor Michael A. Nutter added, “HB 1580 is critical to the growing solar industry in Philadelphia. Federal and state incentives to promote this industry are disappearing in the recession and the market for solar credits has collapsed. Without encouragement, Pennsylvania’s solar industry, which in recent years has transformed the Commonwealth into one of the nation’s leading solar markets, is in danger of disappearing. This is costing Pennsylvania good jobs and millions in investments.”
“Pennsylvanians have clearly demonstrated that they want solar energy – and lots of it. Hundreds of solar companies like mine are ready to put our thousands of employees to work meeting that demand throughout the state. The only thing standing between us and a thriving solar economy is the passage of HB 1580. I want to bring home the 50 Philadelphia based employees who we transferred to other states or recently laid off due to the solar market crash,” said Andrew Kleeman, Senior Vice President of Mercury Solar Systems. The company is one of the largest solar installation businesses on the East Coast and, until recently, employed 50 in the Commonwealth.
“HB 1580 would drive Pennsylvania solar development at a time when global costs are dramatically declining, the U.S. industry is surging, and Pennsylvania needs new economic opportunities. And perhaps most importantly, it would break the state’s boom-bust solar cycle and put it on a stable, long-term growth path,” said PASEIA President Ron Celentano, representing over 80 solar manufacturers, developers, installers, and other solar professionals that do business in Pennsylvania.
By 2021, 8 percent of Pennsylvania’s energy must come from renewable sources with one half of a percent coming from solar. HB 1580 (Ross-R, Chester County) would increase the near-term annual solar requirements along the path to that same long-term target. Maryland just successfully passed a similar tweak to its solar program. This small change would provide reliable investment opportunities for Pennsylvania solar customers and protect the state’s solar job growth. 109 State Representatives and 18 State Senators have signed on in support of the bi-partisan policy. HB 1580 is also supported by a diverse group of trade, industry, public health and environmental organizations. Lawmakers have until the end of June to pass HB 1580 in order for this to help the solar industry.
Time for solar action!