Passed in 2004, the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act requires Pennsylvania’s energy utilities to purchase a set amount of power from alternative sources like solar, wind and biofuels.
The AEPS’s 15-year timetable began in 2007. By 2021, companies will need to purchase eight percent of their overall power from “tier 1” renewable energy sources. That includes wind farms, low-impact hydroelectric plants, and methane converted from landfills.
A second tier of energy sources –this includes converted coal waste and larger hydroelectric projects – will make up ten percent of energy purchases by the end of the timeline. Solar power is in its own, smaller category, which will ultimately top out at .5 percent.
In 2011, which is the program’s fifth year, companies need to purchase three percent from “tier 1” sources, 6.2 percent from “tier 2,” and .02 percent from solar.
These alternative energy purchases currently cost utilities nearly $30 million a year. That will increase to around $100 million, by 2021.
How’s the AEPS working so far? The Public Utility Commission puts out an annual report on the project. In 2010, the PUC reported all requirements are being met, and, in fact, Pennsylvania currently has far more solar power than required. That has led to calls for updated, higher solar minimums, in order to keep Pennsylvania’s market growing.