Governor’s signing adds to a year of progress.
Early in 2019, Tom Wolfe, the governor of Pennsylvania signed a new executive order establishing the first statewide goal to reduce carbon pollution in the state. This is particularly important because only recently has the solar market grown significantly in the state. In fact, new policies are one key reason solar job growth in the Keystone State is outpacing the rest of the United States.
About the Executive Order
The commonwealth will work to achieve a 26 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 and an 80 percent reduction by 2050, from 2005 levels. The GreenGov Council will work with all state agencies to reduce energy use in state government and improve the energy efficiency of state buildings and vehicles, saving taxpayers money in the process.
The bold agenda is the first in state history to set such ambitious reductions which will align with the Paris Agreement. It is seen as key to renewable energy growth, the adoption of electric vehicles, and vital for expanding the already significant clean energy job market.
The goals are summarized in three areas:
➤ Reduce overall energy consumption by 3 percent per year, and 21 percent by 2025, as compared to 2017 levels.
➤ Replace 25 percent of the state passenger car fleet with battery electric and plug-in electric hybrid cars by 2025.
➤ Procure renewable energy to offset at least 40 percent of the commonwealth’s annual electricity use.
The GreenGov Council is co-chaired by the state Secretaries of the Departments of General Services, Environmental Protection, and Conservation and Natural Resources. Under their leadership, it will encourage and coordinate environmentally sustainable practices to drive towards the executive action’s goals. The government’s policy, planning, operations, procurement, and regulatory functions, will all benefit.
Such an initiative will take deliberative action and perhaps further legislation from the state house. Exact Solar will be watching closely and participating as allowed.
This is also a good time to look back at recent advancements in the U.S. and Pennsylvania’s solar energy industry and consider the entire picture. Progress is being made in a reasonably short period of time. However, like most progress, there is always room to accelerate it.
Existing Solar Energy Progress
Less than 2 years ago, the state finalized the PA Solar Jobs Bill that essentially closed the border to local utilities buying solar credits (SRECs). Over time fewer out of state solar projects will be allowed to sell credits to Pennsylvania utilities. As noted in Exact Solar’s Look at Pennsylvania SRECs for 2019, the positive impact to instate SREC values is improving, but has plenty of room to grow.
Nationwide the march for renewable energy continues to be strong. A federal agency reports that renewables are now 21% of the electricity energy capacity in the U.S. Locally, new state records for solar energy projects and capacity are evidence of how markets and policy work together. From residential to large scale projects, the Pennsylvania has seen much solar energy growth.
This ultimately leads to continued clean energy job growth. It has helped the state outperform the rest of the country as a whole in creating 10% more solar jobs than the previous reporting year. Pennsylvania ranks ahead of neighboring New York by 2% and New Jersey, which saw a decline in the workforce. Over 4,100 people are estimated to be in the PA solar workforce, most of whom are in construction and installation.
Looking Forward Throughout 2019
In addition to the GreenGov Council’s anticipated first steps to set a path to achieve the goals, there are also active state initiatives that will have a big impact on the future of solar energy.
There is pressure from industry groups and advocates to improve the current Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS). This standard effectively sets energy production goals and mandates utility participation. Compared to most U.S. states, the AEPS is weak and outdated.
The cost and speed for PECO utility customers to go solar needs to be improved.
The Public Utility Commission (PUC) has outdated methods to determine the value of energy contributions.
See Solar Policy is Social Policy to get more details.
Stay Up to Date
The 2019 Pennsylvania SREC values are increasing and exceeding predictions prior to the May 31 deadline. See our Look at Pennsylvania SRECs for 2019 to get the most up to date information.
The positive impact on clean energy jobs is simply more proof that the solar revolution is vital for the future for Pennsylvanians. Exact Solar is actively engaged locally to bring about important change and advocate for the future. Look for updates as progress is made with subsequent policy making and especially the opportunity to provide public feedback.