The media is awash in stories that tout the costs and/or potential beneficiaries of President Biden’s social agenda bill and the accompanying infrastructure bill. Amid these debates, however, regardless of your position, it is easy to gloss over some of the priorities the bills would fund – projects that will produce meaningful solar infrastructure investments for people and communities who need them. One such section is in the “Build Back Better Act” (“Act”) and would provide $ 2.5 billion to fund community solar projects where 50% of the capacity is reserved for low-income households. Community solar projects typically are smaller in scale, i.e., 5 MW or less, and allow people who would otherwise not have access to directly purchase renewable energy to buy a share of the output of a community solar project. The energy generated by the project is used to offset the energy usage of those who subscribe to the project and subscriptions typically provide guaranteed savings. The Act would provide funding for planning and installation, and a single facility would be eligible for either or both funding sources. Reducing the costs of planning and construction for these projects should produce additional savings for customers and additional incentives for project developers to fund the projects in the first place.
The potential availability of substantial funding sources could have an additional positive impact in Pennsylvania. Presently there are at least two Community Solar bills pending before the General Assembly. These bills, SB 472 and HB 1555 were introduced in the previous session and re-introduced in the present legislative session, but they have yet to get out of committee. Based on the extensive support for Community Solar and the success similar programs have enjoyed in surrounding states, it is difficult to understand why the legislation has not moved. Now we can add the prospect of federal funding availability to the list of reasons why Community Solar should be authorized in Pennsylvania and why these bills should be moved forward to ensure Pennsylvanian’s have the ability to utilize and benefit from the infrastructure bill to the fullest extent.