Over the past several years, Pennsylvania has positioned itself as a solar leader. Along with the commitment of $180 million in 2008 for a solar rebate and grant program, Pennsylvania was one of the first states on the East Coast to adopt long-term solar objectives beneath its Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard. Requiring 0.5% of the state’s electricity sales to be met through solar resources by 2021, the state is projected to develop roughly 700 MW of solar. These policies stimulated this nascent industry in a major way having helped to support over 700 solar companies. Having developed well over 150 MW of solar in the past few years alone, Pennsylvania has surged past its annual targets through 2015–yearly benchmarks intended to move the state towards its goal in 2021.
Policy Needs and Next Steps
With rebate and grant dollars exhausted and the state well ahead of its solar benchmarks, Pennsylvania’s solar market has dried up in a serious way. Pennsylvania needs a strategy to ensure that its solar market can smoothly transition from the successful programs of the past to the long-term, sustainable opportunities of the future. We believe it is imperative for the state’s policymakers to take a serious look at the current market conditions and to find a way to ensure that Pennsylvania can further unleash its solar potential over the long-term. Vote Solar continues to work with the solar industry and local advocates in advocating for policies that will set the Commonwealth on a path towards a sustainable solar market.
Most recently, Vote Solar has worked closely with local stakeholders and the solar industry to advocate for the passage of House Bill 1580 (Ross, R-Chester); legislation that will make a vital fix to PA’s market by increasing demand for solar over the next couple of years. Importantly, this approach will help to stabilize the state’s solar industry and provide new opportunities for Pennsylvanians looking to go solar. With PA’s legislature having recessed for the summer, Vote Solar will work with its partners over the coming months to develop strategy and tactics for later this year and looking forward to 2013.
At the time it was passed in 2004, Pennsylvania’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard contained one of the most aggressive solar PV set asides in the country – requiring 0.5% of the state’s electricity to come from PV by 2021 (700 MW). In many respects, Pennsylvania is a victim of its own success. To further stimulate the industry within the state, in 2008 Pennsylvania authorized funding for an upfront rebate and grant program for the development of solar. With the funding for this program all but exhausted, however, the state will fully transition its support for solar back to the solar provisions beneath the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard.
Pennsylvania’s leaders should be commended for adopting a long-term solar goal of 700 MW by 2021 and for further propelling this clean energy industry by authorizing a grant and rebate program in 2008. This investment towards a long-term and sustainable solar market in the Commonwealth signaled a clear commitment to making solar a part of the state’s energy portfolio. These decisions stimulated solar opportunities in a significant way, but it is imperative that policymakers and stakeholders further address current market conditions. With the solar market surging across the country and around the world, now is the time for Pennsylvania to nurture its solar investment to ensure that this clean energy industry is part of the state’s economy for future generations.
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Vote Solar lead for Pennsylvania is Peter Olmsted