Currently, solar power accounts for less than 1% of the total amount of electricity used in Pennsylvania. However, there are several policies that have been put into place to help incentivize and regulate its use.
The state has mandated solar power use via a renewable portfolio standard. The renewable portfolio standard, or RPS, requires that a certain percentage of electricity from every provider to be solar power. It also requires that net metering.
By 2021, the state must have at least 0.5% of its electricity that is derived from solar power. In theory, solar power could easily provide the state with over 30% of its electrical needs. However, there has been slow growth in solar generation because of a huge decrease in solar grants, as well as the lower cost of credits for solar energy.
What New Policies Were Put Into Place In 2019?
Several years ago, solar power became the buzz in Pennsylvania as information was released regarding the $100 million increase to the Pennsylvania Sunshine Program. Sadly, the funding was exhausted across the state for the solar power rebate program. There were also other gaps that occurred in the policies that have taken Pennsylvania a step backwards and right into the center of the solar-friendly pack.
There is a strong foundation that still exists and can be built around. By adding some simple tweaks, lawmakers can easily turn Pennsylvania into the perfect example for solar policy once again.
It goes without saying that because there is so much land to protect – from the gorgeous Presque Isle to the massive Alleghenys, the state has many reasons to be supportive of strong policies that promote solar energy.
Solar Policy Laws In Pennsylvania
There is a reason why there are some states that seem to be using solar energy everywhere, while there are other states that do not. Public utilities commissions and state legislatures have the power to make solar energy accessible for every resident in a state.
Some of the states that have the most cloud coverage overall have more favorable solar energy laws. States such as New York, Connecticut and New Jersey appear to be doing very well with solar power. On the other hand, other states that have many natural resources such as Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama are not doing as well.
The RPS for Pennsylvania is separated into two different requirements. As of this writing, 0.8% of the state’s energy has to emerge from what is known as ‘Tier 1 Technologies’. This includes low-impact hydro, wind and solar. It also includes some less commonly known types of eco-friendly energy production.
In order for a technology to be considered a Tier 1, the electricity has to be produced within the state. In addition, the Tier 1 in the RPS also includes a 0.5% carve-out specifically for solar energy.
This all creates a strong foundation for the state’s RPS. However, the remaining 10% of the mandated 18% of the total RPS is categorized as ‘Tier 2’.
This tier can contain energy derived from less eco-friendly resources such large scale hydropower and energy derived from coal.
The RPS for the state is critical in creating policies that are strong for renewable energy.
What Are Solar Carve-Outs?
States that have solar carve-outs included in their RPS ask electric utilities to produce some of their power from sunlight. If these utility companies fail to comply, they could face stiff penalties from the state.
Typically speaking, the bigger the solar carve-outs are in the RPS, the better the incentives will be to customers from electric utility companies. As a result, customers get faster payback times as well as better returns on their Pennsylvania solar panel installation investments.
There are certain carve-outs that are for efficient and clean technologies such as mandates for eco-friendly increases in distributed generation or solar panels. These types of carve-outs promote very strong incentives for residential customers who use solar power.
Why Are Electricity Prices Important In Pennsylvania?
The power that solar panels produce can lower a homeowner’s electric bill. The more electricity cost, the more money homeowners can save by generating their own.
The average homeowner in Pennsylvania pays out an estimated 14 cents/kWh of electricity. Currently, this amount comes very close to the national estimated cost of 13 cents/kWh.
Even though cheap electricity is something that homeowners enjoy, cheap electricity is created when fossil fuels are burned. In fact, tons and tons of fossil fuels are burned to produce electricity at these rates.
Not only is this bad for the environment, but it will eventually lead to much higher electricity bills once the costs begin to mount in order to clean up the environment. In fact, there have been news reports across the country of where utility companies have had to pay out money to clean up coal ash spills and other environmental hazards due to fossil fuel burning. These extra costs will more than likely be passed on the customers.
On the other hand, solar power is a clean, efficient and renewable energy source that will save customers money over the long-term.
Net metering is a term that means customers receive full price credit for the energy that is generate by their solar panels. A FIT (feed-in tariff) is payment for solar power that is in non-net metering states.
Utilities are able to monitor a home’s energy use under net metering. The company is able to see how much solar energy was produced and the actual amount of energy the household consumes. Credit is based on the surplus.
In 2008, state law in Pennsylvania required that utilities owned by investors had to offer net-metering to residential customers that had solar energy systems with a capacity up to 50kW.
For residential customers who have a year long surplus for an entire year, utility companies will give you a check for all of the solar energy at a ‘price-to-compare’ rate.
Pennsylvania is slowly making changes in its solar panel laws that will benefit customers and the environment alike. As more laws are moved and passed through the state legislature, Pennsylvania can once again boast as having one of the best solar energy programs in the country.