The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the U.S. Department of Energy has thrown down the gauntlet for Pennsylvania, encouraging the state to produce 10 percent of its electricity from solar by 2030.
While the goal might not seem like much, especially when compared with states like California and New Jersey which have a 50% renewable target by the same year, the Keystone state faces a much bigger hurdle — currently, it only gets about 0.25 percent of its energy from the sun.
Unlike states like California and New Jersey which are more than halfway towards accomplishing their renewable goals, the DEP mandate requires Pennsylvania to increase its solar production by a whooping 11,900%.
The the feat would require installing approximately 11 gigawatts of new solar projects, compared to the 0.3 gigawatts that the state currently has.
A recent study, however, led by the DEP has shown the mandate is not that far-fetched.
The DEP study reveals that Pennsylvania has more than enough rooftops and daylight to succeed in reaching its goal. What it previously lacked were the right policies and incentives to encourage home homeowners to switch. But with the recent election results, all that is poised to change as a blue wave flipped many of the state’s congressional seats previously held by incumbents less friendly towards renewables.
Solar proponents are hoping to see the state adopt more renewable loan opportunities, increased access to tax incentives to lower the upfront costs of installations, and a more aggressive carbon program that would support solar installs.
Looking at the costs associated in the DEP’s study, even candidates that are more fossil fuel friendly and fiscally conservative would have to agree that the numbers add up in favor of the state making some changes. The total investment to expand solar only be about 1.4 percent more than the state would otherwise spend on building new fossil fuel infrastructure — and those numbers are crunched before any of the more esoteric health and environmental benefits are calculated into the cost.
This change in momentum coupled with a 2017 budget bill rider passed by Pennsylvania’s General Assembly, which requires the states electric utilities to buy home-grown solar credits rather than the out-of-state-credits it had been purchasing, has led to an optimistic climate for home solar to take root in near future.
Previous to the 2017 change the SREC prices in Pennsylvania were based on a shared market value across a region known as the PJM, encompassing a cluster of states in the North Eastern United States. The massive saturation of SRECs gave an advantage to states that already had a head start, seeing the value of a megawatt-hour decline from $300 in 2019 to $5 today.