State and local government leaders, consumer advocates, utility and business leaders, academics, solar industry experts, and others interested in solar energy attended the first stakeholders meeting on Pennsylvania solar energy planning Thursday at the Department of Environmental Protection headquarters in Harrisburg.
They’ve committing their expertise, time, and energy to Finding Pennsylvania’s Solar Future, the 30-month planning process led by the DEP to identify best approaches to increase solar energy development in the commonwealth.
“In the same way that Pennsylvania is now among national leaders in fossil fuel-based energy,” said DEP Acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell, “we want to lead in solar energy development. This planning process demonstrates our proactive strategic work to position the Commonwealth as a solar energy leader by 2030.”
This includes exploring options to increase the amount of electricity generated from solar power and sold in Pennsylvania. A 10 percent increase has been identified as an aspirational goal.
McDonnell noted that Act 213 of 2004, the Pennsylvania Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard Act, requires that electric distribution companies and electric generation suppliers include a specific percentage of electricity from alternative resources, such as solar. By 2021, the percentage of the electricity sold in Pennsylvania that must come from solar power is .5 percent.
“After that point, there will be no new requirements for companies to purchase electricity from alternative energy sources, such as solar,” said McDonnell. “That’s why it’s so important that all stakeholders--government, industry, utilities, nonprofits, and communities--begin planning now for what comes next, so that markets have the opportunity to plan and respond such that all Pennsylvanians are included in the economic and environmental benefits of solar.”
Finding Pennsylvania’s Solar Future is funded by a $500,000 award from the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative and is one of eight projects across 20 states that’s working to maximize the benefits of state-level solar through technical assistance.
The participants learned the planning process details from Dave Althoff, program manager in the DEP Office of Pollution Prevention and Energy Assistance and project principal investigator.
Work groups will be formed to focus on regulation and ratemaking, future markets and business models, and operations and system integration.
The Vermont Energy Investment Corporation presented an introduction to data modeling and overview of current baseline solar scenarios in Pennsylvania.
One of the action items for participants is to generate inputs to the baseline scenario by the next meeting, which will be in June in Pittsburgh.Meeting results and other information will be posted on DEP’s Finding Pennsylvania’s Solar Future webpage.