Saturday, September 12, 2020

Sen. Yaw Wants To Load Up Solar Energy Projects With Bonds; Will Kill $2 Billion In Private Solar Investment, Hurt Family Farms, Increase Electricity Costs

On September 10, Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, announced he would be introducing legislation to impose new bonding requirements on solar electric generation and other renewable energy facilities.
“While wind and solar may use renewable energy sources to generate electricity, the components they utilize to do so are not. Often, they include rare earth metals and other hazardous materials which pose environmental or public health hazard if not handled appropriately,” Sen. Yaw said. 
[Note: Rare earth minerals are not toxic in products themselves, obviously.  We use iPhones, tablets and other electronic products everyday with these materials in them.  Mining, processing and recycling rare earth minerals can pose risks to workers and the environment.
[Interestingly, Penn State and others are actively researching how rare earth minerals can be extracted from coal, which could help revive that industry and help mine reclamation efforts. Read more here.]
“Wind and solar facilities have a finite life span, and many across the United States are coming to the end of their useful life. Establishing reasonable bonding amounts will help to address challenges as to how to properly decommission a site or handle associated waste.
“The amount of the bond shall be reasonably proportionate to the costs related to potential hazardous liabilities, site decommissioning and reclamation, and proper recycling or disposal of the wind and solar facilities.
“This is not a new concept as coal, natural gas, solid waste and a host of other industries are required to post financial guarantees for their activities. This requirement would not apply to homes and businesses which host solar facilities that generate electricity for their own use.”
Flawed Premise
First, coal, natural gas, solid waste and a host of other industries are NOT required to post a bond for things like hazardous liabilities, proper recycling and disposal of their facilities.
Coal, natural gas, solid waste and other industries produce air and water pollution and waste as part of their operations that must be safely managed.  It is these waste, air and water pollution controls that are bonded in case the public has to clean them up, NOT the industrial facility itself.
Obviously, solar and wind energy facilities do NOT produce air pollution and waste in their operation like coal, natural gas and other industries do.
Second, no other electric generation or industrial-type product has a requirement they be recycled, let alone have a bonding requirement.
Third, if “hazardous liabilities” and “recycling” costs are to be covered for solar, wind and renewable energy facilities, they should also be covered for coal, natural gas, waste and other industrial facilities because they are NOT covered now.
Fourth, a bonding requirement will make what has rapidly become the cheapest form of electricity generation-- renewables, which are now beating out coal and in many places natural gas, more expensive. Read more here.
More expensive generation will increase the cost of electricity for consumers and businesses.
Kills $2 Billion In Community Solar Projects
A little more than a week ago, the House Consumer Affairs Committee heard broad bipartisan support for community solar that would help save family farms and allow $2 billion worth of investment to go forward for projects waiting for the legislation to pass-- House Bill 531 (Kaufer-R- Luzerne) and Senate Bill 705 (Scavello-R-Monroe)-- all at no cost to taxpayers.   Read more here.
Now, Sen. Yaw is talking about loading billions of dollars in bond requirements on these and other renewable energy projects.
The $2 billion in investment in community solar projects and family farms would be devastated by this legislation.
In addition to family farms, a bond requirement will also hurt Penn State and other colleges and universities in Pennsylvania that have moved aggressively to take control of their own energy futures by investing in solar energy projects.
A bond requirement will also insure solar energy remains a cottage industry, literally, because it only exempts homes and businesses which host solar facilities that generate electricity for their own use.
A similar attempt, with a similar flawed premise, is underway by Republicans in the House who want to require solar panels be included in the state’s Electronic Waste Recycling Program-- a program that is already broken and is unsustainable.  Read more here.
(Photo: Keystone Solar Project on farm in Lancaster County.)
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[Posted: Sept. 12, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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