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DEP Releases Draft Plan of Strategies to Reduce Barriers to Solar Energy Development, Invites Public Comment

Wednesday, July 11, 2018 @ 12:07 AM

Posted by Joanne Bauer

Solar panels with technicianHARRISBURG, Pa. – The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) invites the public to review and provide comments on Finding Pennsylvania’s Solar Future, a draft plan of 15 recommended strategies that could increase in-state solar energy development to supply 10 percent of electricity in the Commonwealth by 2030.

“Since the project began in 2017, the planning group has completed a modeling process that reflects the knowledge and perspectives of over 500 expert stakeholders statewide, provided through public meetings and working group discussions,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “Today, we’re asking for public feedback so that all Pennsylvanians can have a part in the development of a plan that brings the economic, public health, and environmental benefits of solar energy to everyone.”

The group set a target of 10 percent retail electric sales from in-state solar energy sources by 2030. This target was selected as a level that could be achievable but would also challenge the business-as-usual model and allow for the development a variety of strategies that could be pursued. To meet this goal, Pennsylvania must install about 11 gigawatts of solar energy, a significant increase from the roughly 300 megawatts currently installed in the state.

Five main strategies, incorporating both decentralized approaches (e.g., solar panels on homes) and larger, utility-grid-scale development, were analyzed:

• Increase the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard requirements for solar to 4-8 percent by 2030;
• Provide customers access to capital, including provision of loan guarantees;
• Adopt carbon pricing;
• Create uniform policies for siting and land use;
• Consider tax exemptions that encourage solar deployment and assist solar projects in finding project sponsors with tax equity.

Ten other strategies focusing on increasing either small, decentralized projects or grid-scale solar projects in Pennsylvania are also detailed.

The plan also examines the job creation potential of solar generation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the occupation of solar installer is projected to be the fastest growing job in the United States from 2016–2026 and is expected to increase more than 100 percent through 2026. The plan finds that achieving the 10 percent target would result in the addition of roughly 30,000 jobs at median wages of between $20 and $38 per hour.

All are welcome to comment on the plan at https://www.ahs.dep.pa.gov/eComment/. The comment period opened July 7 and closes on 11:59 PM, August 20, 2018.

The final plan, which will take into consideration the comments received, will be published in December for informational use by policy makers, regulators, industry, investors, and consumers.

The project group is now developing a complementary document outlining actions to support the strategies and transform the marketplace in Pennsylvania for solar. This Strategy Support and Market Transformation report will be available for review and discussion at the next project stakeholder meeting in the fall.

Find out more about the Pennsylvania’s Solar Future planning project at www.dep.pa.gov/pasolarfuture.


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