Although the 2010 legislative session is far from over in Pennsylvania, an attempt to increase solar energy mandates has effectively ended.
“For all practical purposes, it’s dead,” Maureen Mulligan, lobbyist for Pennsylvania’s two largest solar-advocacy groups, wrote in an e-mail this past Monday.
The latest attempt marks the third time in two years that legislative proposals to boost Pennslyvania’s solar energy mandates has failed to reach a full vote in the state’s House or Senate. This most recent attempt, which began over the summer, hoped to minimize opposition by increasing only the solar energy requirements, rather than proposing higher alternative energy standards across the board. Proponents sought a solar carve-out of 1.5 percent, a full one percent over the current mandate of 0.5 percent required by existing legislation adopted in 2004.
Neighboring states, including New Jersey and Delaware have adopted higher mandates since then, something John Hanger, Pennsylvania’s environmental secretary, noted Monday. “We can see the promise,” he said. “But the question is whether we’re going to actually build on this impressive foundation or let it wither.” Referring to the state’s fledgling solar industry, Hanger cautioned that the lack of progress on a solar-only bill would cost the state jobs. He blamed “organized opposition” from the state’s Chamber of Business and Industry and owners of existing power plants for the most-recent failure.
But Gene Barr, a chamber official, disagrees. Barr contends there was “widespread opposition to these mandates from virtually all of the state business associations, including energy providers and consumers.” “The chamber objected to carving out a market for one group of businesses to the detriment of those in the nuclear, natural gas, coal, and other emerging-technology industries,” he said.
The coal industry, which provides 54 percent of the state’s electricity, has been under growing competitive pressure, largely because of stricter requirements from the EPA. George Ellis, president of the Pennsylvania Coal Industry, said he was “certainly pleased” the solar bill did not reach a full vote. As to whether they would try again, Mulligan said, “We’ll see how the elections go and what interest there is, whether it’s worth pursuing anything again.”
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Original Reporting By Diane Mastrull from the Philadelphia Inquirer