Sen. Costa, Rep. Mizgorski introduce identical solar bills |

Sen. Costa, Rep. Mizgorski introduce identical solar bills

Jacob Tierney

Two Pittsburgh-area lawmakers on opposite sides of the aisle proposed measures that would allow customers to buy solar power directly from utility providers.

State Sen. Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, and Rep. Lori Mizgorski, R-Shaler, on Tuesday introduced identical local solar program bills in the state Senate and House.

“In my district, I have seen a huge spike in folks interested in reducing their carbon footprint and making their homes more energy efficient, but sometimes cost gets in their way,” Costa said in a statement.

Under current Pennsylvania rules, utility companies must sell electricity to customers at the cheapest price possible. Solar is usually a bit more expensive than traditional power sources, according to Krysia Kubiak, director of government and regulatory affairs for Duquesne Light, which supports the local solar program bills.

“We do have a lot of customers that are asking for 100 percent renewable energy, and we want to provide it to them,” Kubiak said.

Under the program, customers that are willing to pay a bit more for solar energy would be able to do so, without affecting the rates for other customers. Each electricity provider would have the option to partner with a third-party company that would build and operate a solar farm.

Interested customers would sign up for the program and foot the bill. It’s too early to know how much solar power would cost compared to traditional power sources, Kubiak said.

The program would not require state funding.

A portion of the solar power would be reserved for low-income customers, who could sign up to receive it without paying the higher rates.

Mizgorski said she’s talked to many constituents who are interested in renewable energy and has seen more solar panels popping up around the district.

“This program came to our attention, and it seemed to really meet a need,” she said.

There are enough solar panels in Duquesne Light’s service area to generate about 20 megawatts of power, Kubiak said. That’s enough to power more than 2,000 homes, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

However, there are many people who are interested in solar power for whom buying rooftop solar panels is either impossible or impractical, Kubiak said. Many electricity customers are renters, and others live in shady areas.

“I get really excited about the idea of increasing the amount of renewable power that is on the grid,” Kubiak said. “This is one good way to do it.”

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jacob at 724-836-6646, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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