In an attempt to make amends with the environment, the US government may be attempting too much of a leap.

Bills pending before the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s legislative houses would mandate a 1,250 percent increase over the next 15 years in the solar requirements to be provided by electric utilities. The price tag for this additional requirement for power distribution companies could conservatively increase generation costs by $172 million and as much as $426 million.

A study by the Energy Association of Pennsylvania found using the current price for solar in New Jersey, which is 22 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), would increase generation rates by an additional $172 million. And, using the figure often used by solar advocates of 50 cents per kWh, the solar generation legislative mandate could yield increased electric consumer rates of up to $426 million over the next 15 years.

“While we laud the legislature and governor for looking at greener energy solutions, unfortunately, right now, their efforts are very costly to today’s rate payers,” said Michael Love, president of the Energy Association of Pennsylvania, a trade group representing the Commonwealth’s PUC-regulated electric companies.

The cost of solar energy and other renewable energies is known to be high. While the benefits are long term, the concern is this may be too dramatic of an upfront cost. According to Love, Senate Bill 715 and House Bill 1203 would increase electric rates without helping create a market for solar power to thrive. In addition, a Carnegie Mellon study released in the spring of 2007 concluded that solar energy has costs five to 10 times higher than costs of other low-carbon technologies, such as wind.

Love proposed a solution: “If our government wishes to increase the solar energy generation resources, then the government must commit to greater utilization of solar in its own facilities to help grow this emerging technology.”

So far, we have seen some of that solution, such as the Senate’s intended greening of the Capitol building.   EC