On behalf of PennEnvironment’s citizen members, I am writing to urge you to support efforts to set aside $1 million from the existing Pennsylvania Sunshine Program to fund solar hot water projects in the Commonwealth. The state’s solar trade organization, the Pennsylvania Solar Energy Industries Association (PASEIA), has already called for this proposal, so it is unlikely to be met with much—if any—opposition.
As you know, installations of solar photo voltaic (PV) and solar hot water systems are currently supported from the same funds through the PA Sunshine Program. Both are worthy of incentives, however PV systems receive more attention and, unlike solar hot water systems, qualify for Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs). As a result, solar hot water systems have not received a significant portion of the funds from the PA Sunshine Program, and sadly the future of the industry in Pennsylvania is uncertain. It is for this reason that we ask you to set aside $1 million for solar hot water from the remaining funds to ensure both solar hot water and PV can thrive in Pennsylvania.
It is important to preserve the prosperity of the solar hot water industry in Pennsylvania because it is cost-effective, clean, and creates jobs. PennEnvironment’s recent report “Smart, Clean and Ready to Go: How solar hot water can reduce pollution and dependence on fossil fuels” found that maximizing the full potential of solar hot water systems in the U.S. could reduce energy bills by $9.9 billion annually, saving residential customers and businesses 3.2 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively, from their current energy expenses. As an excellent local example, after a 16-unit apartment building in Philadelphia installed a solar hot water system and high efficiency hot water heater, the annual energy savings and net operating income totaled $3,200 per year.
Moreover, the country could greatly reduce global warming pollution by taking advantage of the full potential for solar hot water. Pennsylvania alone could achieve carbon dioxide emission reductions of 1.4 million metric tons per year, the equivalent of removing more than 274,000 cars from the road. In addition to reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, increased utilization of solar hot water could reduce the environmental and public health costs related to air pollution in the Commonwealth.
Lastly, solar hot water produces green jobs for Pennsylvania’s economy. The solar energy industry creates more jobs per megawatt than any other traditional energy source, and because all 67 counties of Pennsylvania have sufficient sunlight to utilize solar development, solar hot water has the potential to supply thousands more jobs.
PennEnvironment joins with the state’s solar industry in supporting the request to set aside specific funds for solar hot water to ensure both PV and solar hot water can prosper. In light of the benefits of solar hot water for both Pennsylvania’s economy and environment, PennEnvironment asks you to support the request to set aside $1 million from the PA Sunshine Program funds for solar hot water.
David Masur, Director