Local solar program proposed in Pennsylvania



(The Center Square) – Connecting to solar power remains unaffordable and technically impossible for many across Pennsylvania.

That’s why one Erie County legislator says he’s reintroducing legislation to bridge the gap for renters and homeowners unable to invest in their own rooftop panels.

Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie, sponsored a plan on Thursday that would establish subscription programs that guarantee residents receive 100% solar power from a local source instead of a traditional grid mix.

“This bill will allow those who truly believe in renewable energy, but live in settings that are not conducive to generating it, to put their money where it will back up their desire for a cleaner grid,” he said Thursday.

Although residents can shop for renewable energy plans on Pennsylvania’s retail electricity market, most of that generation comes from projects in Tennessee or Kentucky.

A spokeswoman in Laughlin’s office said many of the plans sold on the market aren’t truly “green,” either. This is because project developers often sell their solar renewable energy credits to fossil fuel suppliers, who then use the credits to prove some of the power supplied to customers comes from renewable sources.

The credits range from $3.50 per megawatt hour produced to as much as $370, depending on each state’s market value. In October 2022, Pennsylvania credits were worth between $40 and $42.

Laughlin’s plan, however, requires local sources to keep their credits so that the generation counts toward the state’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard, thereby guaranteeing that it’s “green.”

The proposal comes amid the senator’s staunch opposition to a plan to install wind turbines in Lake Erie. The House OK’d the measure in April, which would permit land leases in the central and western regions of the lake.

While supporters say the development plans avoid ecological and economic disruptions, critics beg to differ.

“If this bill is proposed for environmental stewardship, it’s anything but,” said Rep. Jake Banta, R-Waterford, during an April 17 floor debate.

He said negotiations left out the property owners, anglers and charter captains he represents who “want to preserve their peaceful way of life.” All of them worried the wind turbines would not only destroy the view along the shoreline, but also risk contamination from oil leaks and stir up toxic sediment along the lake bed.

Laughlin did not comment on the bill at the time, but clarified Thursday that he doesn’t support it.

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