PHILLY SHOULD BE GOING “COMMUNITY SOLAR”
Solar Panels on Individual Houses Are Not Enough. Philly – and the Entire State – Needs a Citywide Solar Grid
Reality Check | WURD radio Special to ecoWURD
Pennsylvania State Representative Donna Bullock (D-Philadelphia) recently had a talk with Charles Ellison, host of ecoWURD radio on WURD’s Reality Check, about her recent legislative efforts to pass “community solar” throughout the state. The concept is fairly simple: solar should be a utility operating like other traditional energy sources. One of the bigger problems with solar adoption rates is that the clean, renewable energy source is not accessible to vulnerable, low-income populations who don’t have the resources to purchase or finance solar panels. Many residents, even those who can afford solar, don’t live in homes that can allow the installation of traditional solar panels.
Bullock’s “PA Solar for All” bill has not yet passed. The goals outlined in the legislation include:
- Authorizing Pennsylvania’s electric utilities to develop pilot solar initiatives that enable low income customers to share in the value of solar energy production;
- Permitting Pennsylvania public utilities to offer special rates on a competitively-neutral basis where customers can fund local solar development through their voluntary charges on their distribution bills;
- Clarifying Pennsylvania law to allow electric utilities to build, own, and operate Pennsylvania based solar projects to meet their obligations under the AEPS law; and
- Allowing utilities to recover the costs of incentive programs to customers to encourage the installation of “smart” inverters and battery storage systems that can promote greater reliability and use of solar on the grid.
More recently, Bullock also co-introduced “Community Solar Legislation” as part of a broader bi-partisan effort. “Here’s the deal, when you’re looking at solar energy, we know that solar energy is long term cleaner and better for the environment, of course,” said Bullock on ecoWURD. “The challenge is that solar has always had this privilege issue. Solar is not necessarily affordable and accessible to everyone. In a city like Philadelphia, you may live in a row home or in an apartment or in a condo, and solar becomes difficult even if you have the resources to make that happen. We also need to reduce our long term reliance on oil and gas. We also have to create solar businesses in the city that are hiring locally. There is an opportunity for our community to get this industry right and get people of color involved in it early.”