PA State Rep. Greg Vitali wants law to hike renewable energy productio

Posted: February 16, 2013

Counting on shifting sentiments about climate change, a Democratic state legislator on Friday introduced legislation to force Pennsylvania utilities to generate more power from renewable sources such as wind and solar.

State Rep. Greg Vitali (D., Delaware), whose recent efforts to boost renewable-energy mandates have failed to get sufficient support, said he hoped the political climate had changed in the aftermath of several destructive storms.

"Superstorm Sandy was a reminder of the consequences we face if we ignore the climate change issue," said Vitali, who is the Democratic chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.

Vitali's bill would amend the Pennsylvania Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards (AEPS) by requiring electric companies to generate 15 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2023. The current law, passed in 2004, requires 8 percent by 2021.

The proposal would also triple the amount of solar energy required under the act, from 0.5 percent in 2021 to 1.5 percent by 2023. Renewable power sources like wind, solar and hydroelectric don't produce greenhouse gas emissions.

With Republicans in control of Harrisburg, support for efforts to boost the AEPS mandates has been weak. Last year even a modest short-term adjustment to the solar mandates failed.

The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, utilities and the coal industry oppose expansion of the renewable portfolio standards, saying that market forces rather than government mandates should determine energy choices.

The Energy Association of Pennsylvania, which represents utilities, estimates the higher standards would cost consumers $2 billion more cumulatively by 2025.

Pennsylvania's current law requires 4 percent of power to come from renewable energy sources in 2013, including 0.05 percent from solar energy. For Peco Co. residential customers, the AEPS charge this year amounts to 0.0007 cents per kilowatt hour, or about $6.30 a year for a customer who uses 9,000 kWh.

Vitali introduced a second bill that would designate $25 million per year from the Marcellus Shale impact fee for the PA Sunshine Solar Program, which provides grants for solar installations. Current funding for the program is nearly exhausted.

"Frankly, I have no real expectations that either one of my bills will be signed into law," said Vitali. But he said it was important to maintain pressure "until the political configuration improves."


Contact Andrew Maykuth at 215-854-2947, @Maykuth on Twitter or amaykuth@phillynews.com

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