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Fred Kraybill squinted as he looked out across his patio toward the 40 or so people gathered behind his home in Point Breeze on a warm August evening.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he began, “I’d like to welcome you to the celebration for the Inflation Reduction Act, the biggest climate bill in the history of the United States.”
Polite applause ensued, accompanied by a few whoops and cheers. In the near distance, above a lush garden laden with peppers and lettuce and waist-high rows of green beans, 40 275-watt solar panels protruded into the fading summer sunlight.
Mingling in Kraybill’s yard was a group described by one member as “East End climate hawks” and longtime environmental activists, gathered to celebrate the accomplishment of legislation that could have momentous implications for how we respond to the ever-worsening climate crisis.
At face value, the Inflation Reduction Act promises to be a boon to developing renewables in Pennsylvania, where photovoltaics account for just one-half of one percent of our statewide energy portfolio. Solar had already become a cost-competitive, market-ready alternative to carbon-sourced power, and the expanded incentives and expected newfound market stability brought by the legislation aim to ensure a solid foundation for the growth of sun-sourced energy.
But even as activists celebrate the landmark bill and local developers scramble to meet surging demand, experts say that state policies — or a lack thereof — are preventing Pennsylvanians from fully taking advantage of the Act’s substantial incentives and could cause the state’s already lagging solar development to fall further behind.
Later, at the edge of the patio, solar consultant Greg Winks addressed the crowd: “What we lack, still — and this is our next battle for all you activists — we need to get Pennsylvania legislation to change.”
Eight days earlier, President Joe Biden signed the landmark bill, which contained in its 273 pages sweeping (if not comprehensive) policies aimed at reducing our nation’s carbon footprint. Part of that effort is supporting a buildout of renewable energy sources, including solar. The bill includes new incentives aimed at increasing the number of homes, businesses and institutions around the country that draw power from the sun.
The White House projects an additional 610,000 Pennsylvania households will install rooftop solar panels as a result of the new legislation. But solar advocates say anemic state solar power targets and an absence of rules for community solar arrangements could dampen that forecast.