Monday, October 22, 2012

PA. Gets Eclipsed In Move To Solar

IF GOVS. CORBETT and Christie were in a race to embrace solar energy, it would be Christie who needs to slather on the SPF-50 sunscreen.

As for Corbett and Pennsylvania lawmakers, they still need to work on their tans.

The New Jersey governor earned bragging rights recently by signing legislation that could revive his state’s efforts to expand its capacity for solar-generated electricity, which is already second only to California’s.

The measure, cosponsored by state Senate President Steve Sweeney and Sen. Bob Smith, calls for an impressive doubling of the overall percentage of solar power that New Jersey utilities must offer their customers over the next decade and a half.

On the heels of that move, the state’s largest utility, Public Service Electric & Gas Co., announced plans to build solar installations capable of powering some 20,000 homes. Just as important, the utility’s Solar 4 All program would target solar-panel installations to landfills, former industrial brownfields, warehouse roofs and parking lots – rather than gobbling up scarce open space.

In comparison to the pace of moving ahead with solar energy in Pennsylvania, New Jersey has the clear lead.

Pennsylvania’s modest goal to have 0.5 percent of its electricity come from the sun in about a decade is too low to drive demand for more solar installations, which means the solar-industry jobs that sprang up in recent years are at risk. It also means the state’s air quality will continue to suffer, given the potential of solar to reduce the reliance on coal-generated electricity.

It’s no coincidence that coal producers, along with big utilities, have been the ones to stall efforts to increase Pennsylvania’s solar standard, as Jersey has done.

Even a proposal from state Rep. Chris Ross, R-Chester, to accelerate the pace of the move to attain the 0.5 percent goal has been stalled. That’s especially wrongheaded in the midst of a blazing summer season when solar could be helping utilities cope with spikes in demand for power and, most important, assure against damaging blackouts.

For Harrisburg lawmakers to see the light, they need only look to Trenton.


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