PA Solar Future Plan Recommends Dramatic Increase In AEPS Solar Mandate Of Up To 8%

On November 15, the Department of Environmental Protection released a set of 15 strategies to increase the state’s solar energy electricity generation to 10 percent of Pennsylvania’s electricity production by 2030.

One of the key recommendations in the Pennsylvania’s Solar Future Plan is to increase the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards mandate on electric utilities to provide 4 to 8 percent of the electricity they sell to customers from solar energy; an increase from 0.5 percent currently.

Installing enough solar energy systems and related infrastructure to meet the 10 percent electricity generation goal will require about 124 square miles of land, according to the recommendations.

That’s a land area a little smaller than the size of Montour County (130.24 square miles) or the City of Philadelphia (130.2 square miles).

The report points out that locations such as landfills and abandoned mine land could also host grid scale solar installations.

“States all around us and across the country have recognized that increasing solar energy can be a real economic development driver, in addition to providing tremendous benefits to public health and in addressing climate,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “This plan demonstrates that we can pursue Pennsylvania’s solar future in a cost-effective manner that complements our position as an energy leader.”

The main finding from the planning study is that, while installation of rooftop and other distributed systems can continue at the current pace, grid-scale development will need to accelerate.

Seven strategies, in addition to increasing the AEPS mandate, combine grid-scale and distributed solar energy systems. They include:

-- Expanding loan products to residential and commercial projects to enable solar ownership;

-- Providing loan guarantees to lower interest rates and incentivize solar deployment;

-- Implementing a carbon pricing program and investing the proceeds in renewable energy and energy efficiency measures;

-- Creating uniform solar project siting and land-use policies while encouraging conservation;

-- Evaluating state tax policy for possible exemptions to encourage the development of distributed and grid-scale solar systems; and

-- Helping solar project sponsors take full advantage of federal tax incentives or connect with investors who can.

Eight additional strategies tap either grid-scale or distributed systems.

Pennsylvania’s Solar Future predicts that approximately 60,000 to 100,000 new jobs will be created in rural, urban, and suburban areas.

Additional economic development opportunities will arise from siting solar development to complement the working landscape and rural economy, such as already disturbed lands or in conjunction with grazing or pollinator-friendly perennials.

A modest increase in overall annual energy spending to build and interconnect solar energy systems (private generation investments and distribution system upgrades) may be required, and approximately 124 square miles of land (less than .5 percent of Pennsylvania's total land area) may be needed to increase grid solar sufficiently to generate 10 percent of electricity.

Electricity generation emits nearly one-third of greenhouse gas emissions in Pennsylvania.

Although solar energy is growing in Pennsylvania, the state currently generates less than 1 percent of our electricity from solar resources, while an increasing number of states have achieved 5 percent or 10 percent of their electricity from this clean, reliable, and renewable energy source.

“For Pennsylvania to achieve leadership in renewable energy generation from solar, we’ll require more intensive leadership, investment, and recognition of the long-range economic and environmental benefits. I’m proud of the leadership DEP and our partners are providing on this important aspect of our state’s energy mix,” said Secretary McDonnell.

The project partners are now working on a detailed list of action items for stakeholders and solar industry advocates to begin making progress on implementing these strategies.

The Finding Pennsylvania’s Solar Future planning project was funded by a $550,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office.

A complete copy of the plan, an executive summary and a comment/ response document summarizing feedback the project received are available on the Pennsylvania’s Solar Future Plan webpage. (formal notice)


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[Posted: Nov. 15, 2018]


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