Pennsylvania’s renter-friendly solar plan moves forward

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(The Center Square) – A state-sponsored plan to bring solar power to more residents cleared the Pennsylvania House of Representatives this week.

The proposal suggests using federal subsidies to expand access to renters, or those who lack an appropriate roof or land area for panels, to take advantage of the cost savings derived from solar energy.

While the technology is growing in many communities, bill sponsor Allentown Democratic Rep. Peter Schweyer said areas like the one he represents – of which renters make up 65% – have row homes and historic districts where solar panels cannot be installed.

Not taking advantage of available federal grants, Schweyer said during a recent committee hearing, would decrease the likelihood of the bill moving forward. An emphasis was placed on making sure there are zero negative impacts on non-solar ratepayers.

“For years, we’ve been hung up on how to help the development of community solar,” he said during the floor vote Tuesday. “And many both inside our chamber and outside of our chamber have rightfully insisted that the costs of these developments should never be pushed onto other ratepayers.”

Critics said, however, the state needs a plan for the future, when community solar sites exhaust their useful lives and require costly decommissioning.

Rep. Kathy Rapp, R-Warren, said it’s a lesson the state learned with the coal and natural gas industries too late. Leaving the problem for the next generation, she added could come at a “grave” environmental cost.

“Our communities need to be assured that Pennsylvania has a plan to decommission, to dispose of, to have reclamation plans, and to have restoration plans before solar panels pile up in our landfills,” Rapp said.

The House approved the bill 111-99. An accompanying fiscal note estimates it will cost the state just under $1.4 million to hire new staffers to help facilitate the legislation.

House Bill 1842 now heads to the Senate for consideration.