Here’s the Governor’s pitch via his Op-Ed in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer:
Let sunshine into Pa. power goals
By Edward G. Rendell
The solar-energy industry is growing rapidly and creating thousands of jobs nationwide. But Pennsylvania is falling farther behind in the race for these green jobs. When it comes to producing clean electricity from the sun, other states are leaping ahead of the commonwealth.
Pennsylvania requires that only 0.5 percent of the electricity we use will come from the sun as of 2021. By comparison, New Jersey will require that 4 percent of its electricity come from solar generation by 2021, Delaware has set a target of 3.5 percent by 2025, and Maryland’s standard is 2 percent by 2022. Even Illinois, a ranking coal producer, has a goal of 1.5 percent by 2025.
What does that mean for the Keystone State? It means we are less likely to attract a major solar-related economic-development project – or to keep the more than 600 solar businesses we already have, which offer jobs in research, manufacturing, installation, and maintenance.
If we want to keep those businesses and the jobs they support, we must create a business environment that helps them expand and attracts companies that are looking to relocate.
That’s why we must increase solar energy’s share in the state’s alternative-energy portfolio standards. Passed by the legislature in 2004, the standards jump-started a green revolution that has made Pennsylvania one of the leading states in renewable-energy development. Twenty-five thousand Pennsylvanians are working in renewable-energy jobs, while the state’s consumers and businesses have invested at least $600 million in solar-energy projects.
The signing of solar and renewable energy legislation into law by Delaware Governor Jack Markell today, July 28, is the latest sign that states aren’t waiting for Congress to tax or limit carbon emissions or set a national renewable electricity standard. And it’s no wonder. Depsite President Obama’s vowing to keep trying to pass a ‘climate bill’, with political winds blowing in from the ‘right,’ the elections Nov. 2 likely mean it will be a long time before the Senate comes close to matching a climate bill passed by the House of Representatives in 2009.
Delaware follows Maryland in giving solar energy companies and their financial backers more resons reason to invest in solar projects within their borders. Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 119 is the new Delaware law, authored by state Sen. Harris McDowell. Markell’s signing of that bill, and others strengthening net metering, moderning solar grants and rebates and enabling ground-mounted solar arrays on land zoned residential, was the impetus for coverage by Diane Mastrull of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The Inquirer article, headlined “In commitment to solar energy, Pennsylvania sees neighbors pull ahead,” cited the lack of similar progress for solar in Pennsylvania and the desire by solar companies, led by Standard Solar, to set up shop in the Keystone State if lawmakers see a bigger role for solar there.
But don’t give up on Pennsylvania just yet. As the article notes, there is push for a solar-only energy bill in Harrisburg this fall that could help Pennsylvania catch up. It could move on the solar provisions of House Bill 2405. That bill got bogged down in dozens of amendments, in part to kill it before the General Assembly’s summer recess.
If you have any doubt about how high the stakes are rising in the hunt for clean energy jobs and capital investments, watch below Gov. Markell’s remarks at the signing ceremony in New Castle, DE. You can find remarks by Delaware’s Secretary of the Dept. of Natural Resources Collin O’Mara and state Senator Harris McDowell, who was the principal and original author of the solar legislation.
The conclusion of sessions in the Delaware and Pennsylvania legislatures offer a dynamic contrast to choices lawmakers made this summer to strengthen — or handicap — their clean energy economies. The Delaware General Assembly June 29 passed Senate Bill 119 to strengthen its Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard along with bills funding green energy programs and improving its “net metering” law while the Pennsylvania House of Representatives balked at House Bill 2405 to diversfy their energy sources with solar, among other incentives.
Proponents in each state — including Standard Solar – saw the opportunity and risk of not keeping up with states such as Maryland and Colorado to further incentivize purchases of solar electric systems. Delaware’s approach involved three separate bills (ergo the “hat trick”) under the leadership of Senator Harris McDowell. The Senate Bill 119 boosted its commitment to renewables to 13% of electricity sales by 2015, with 1% coming from solar. By 2025, that commitment rises to 25% of electricity sales with 3.5% from solar. Not bad for the nation’s First State.
Pennsylvania meanwhile tried an omnibus approach using one bill that attracted so many amendments (mostly from opponents) that House Bill 2405 failed of its own weight in the closing days. One amendment would have classified ‘new,’ additional generation from nuclear reactors as “renewable.” Had 2405 passed the House, it still would have needed to win passage in the Senate. The coal industry once again demonstrated considerable clout by arguing that any legislation for clean energy (including advanced coal technologies to reduce emissions) was a vote against traditional coal and therefore should be defeated. Even pro-solar Governor Ed Rendell, who leaves the Statehouse after 2010, could not persuade enough lawmakers to see the light.
The clean energy sweepstakes will be won by states that see the new good-paying jobs, stronger tax bases and cleaner environments as virtues that deserve to be incentivized long enough to continue driving down costs and attract significant private capital. It is truly surprising to see Pennsylvania, widely heralded as an early leader, ‘punt’ and fall back.