By Edward G. Rendell
(a PDF version of this article is available here: http://www.philly.com/philly/opinion/20100825_Let_sunshine_into_Pa__power_goals.html)
The solar-energy industry is growing rapidly and creating thousands of jobs
nationwide. But Pennsylvania is falling farther behind in the race for these
green jobs. When it comes to producing clean electricity from the sun, other
states are leaping ahead of the commonwealth.
Pennsylvania requires that only 0.5 percent of the electricity we use will
come from the sun as of 2021. By comparison, New Jersey will require that 4
percent of its electricity come from solar generation by 2021, Delaware has
set a target of 3.5 percent by 2025, and Maryland's standard is 2 percent by
2022. Even Illinois, a ranking coal producer, has a goal of 1.5 percent by
What does that mean for the Keystone State? It means we are less likely to
attract a major solar-related economic-development project - or to keep the
more than 600 solar businesses we already have, which offer jobs in
research, manufacturing, installation, and maintenance.
If we want to keep those businesses and the jobs they support, we must
create a business environment that helps them expand and attracts companies
that are looking to relocate.
That's why we must increase solar-energy share in the state's alternative
energy portfolio standards. Passed by the legislature in 2004, the standards
jump-started a green revolution that has made Pennsylvania one of the
leading states in renewable-energy development. Twenty-five thousand
Pennsylvanians are working in renewable-energy jobs, while the state's
consumers and businesses have invested at least $600 million in solar-energy
House Bill 2405 would wisely increase Pennsylvania's solar requirement to 3
percent, but support for the bill has been hard to come by in the
legislature. Even so, a more modest increase would still be worthwhile. A
1.5 percent target, for example, would triple our existing requirement and
make Pennsylvania more competitive in the sector.
There are billions of dollars being invested in the solar-energy industry.
Despite the global recession, the American solar industry grew substantially
in 2009, with revenues increasing by 36 percent and generating capacity by
37 percent over the previous year. What's more, the investment community is
bullish when it comes to solar; venture capitalists, sensing its incredible
growth potential, invested $1.4 billion in the industry last year.
Besides putting Pennsylvania in a position to capitalize on this growth,
increasing the state's solar-energy requirement would help consumers control
their electricity bills. The cost of solar energy has dropped by half from
the levels of just a few years ago. In fact, solar energy now costs less
than electricity from new nuclear power plants, according to a recent Duke
When the owner of a business or home installs a solar system, he or she can
count on benefiting from the power it provides at a stable price over the
lifetime of the panels, or up to 25 years. That lessens the volatility of
energy prices and lowers electricity costs, offsetting the costs of solar
Next month, when the legislature returns to Harrisburg, we will have a final
opportunity this year to ensure a robust market for solar-energy development
in Pennsylvania. We may not be able to achieve a 3 percent requirement, but
there is widespread support for a 1.5 percent target. Even that would go a
long way toward making Pennsylvania more competitive with its neighbors,
attracting companies and jobs rather than losing them to states where the
sun shines brighter.
Edward G. Rendell is the governor of Pennsylvania.