A path to solar victory is emerging in Harrisburg

By Henry McKay on May 14, 2019

Last month, we wrote about the three big pieces of energy legislation in Harrisburg: the nuclear bailout, the update to Pennsylvania’s solar goals, and the community solar bill. Since then, the nuclear bailout discussion has dominated media coverage and left little room for debate on HB 531, the community solar bill, or SB 600, the bill to update our solar goals. But that dynamic seems to be changing, which points to a big opportunity for our solar bills, and it’s up to you to seize it!

The nuclear bailout bills were met with strong opposition when they were introduced, and that hasn’t changed since April. The natural gas industry objected to subsidizing a competing energy source while environmentalists saw it as corporate welfare that maintained the status quo and failed to put us on a path to a greener electricity grid. However, it seems that Excelon, the energy giant that owns Three Mile Island Nuclear Plant, apparently thinks that the nuclear bailout is dead in the water; they have announced that the remaining generating unit at Three Mile Island will be shut down by the end of September.

This capitulation clears a path for community solar and stronger solar goals for our state in two ways. First, the nuclear bill debate was largely occurring in the Pennsylvania House Consumer Affairs Committee, the same committee in which HB 531, the community solar bill, has been stalled. Now that the time for debate of the nuclear bill appears to be over, the committee is free to consider other legislation—like HB 531.

And second, the failure of the nuclear bill may mean that its backers will try to court environmentalists more seriously by offering substantial support for solar and other renewables. The nuclear industry is still eager for some kind of support to keep its plants operating. Three Mile Island was the only Pennsylvania nuclear plant currently running at a loss, but others are projected to be unprofitable soon. They may try to reintroduce a modified bailout bill that would include higher goals for solar and other renewables. The aim would be to bring along Democrats, environmentalists, and other solar supporters in a compromise: support carbon-free nuclear plants and renewable energy. A compromise bill like this would most likely fare much better in Harrisburg.

So what does this mean for you, steadfast solar advocate? It means it’s time for a renewed push for HB 531 and SB 600. Show your legislators that solar has strong support across Pennsylvania and is the foundation of a better energy future. Use our easy tools to contact your legislators about community solar bill and the AEPS bill, and share them so that our legislators hear from as many of us as possible. And if you’d like us to help you schedule an in-person meeting with your legislator, email us at pateam@solarunitedneighbors.org.