Sen. McDowell, Rep. Osienski Unveil Bill to Bring Delaware Closer to Renewable Future

Senator Harris McDowell on Tuesday unveiled a proposal to significantly increase our state’s use of renewable energy over the coming decade by expanding Delaware’s Renewable Portfolio Standard and creating a new community solar market. 

The draft bill is being released on the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day.

“Delaware has made great strides over the last decade to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, and this measure will allow the First State to continue to be a leader on this issue,” said Senator McDowell, D-North Wilmington, chair of the Senate Energy Committee. “The people of Delaware demand we take bold action to combat climate change and sea-level rise. Enhancing our transition to clean, sustainable energy sources is a major step forward that we must take to secure a better future for our grandchildren.”

Created in 2005, Delaware’s Renewable Portfolio Standard creates a competitive market for utilities to acquire a certain percentage of their retail electricity from renewable sources, such as wind or solar energy, each year. Those utilities can either generate electricity from renewable sources themselves or purchase credits from producers who have used renewable sources.

Under the current law, Delaware’s regulated utility acquires 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025. The state’s electric cooperative and its municipal utilities are invited to voluntarily meet the same standard, and the industry is on pace to meet that goal.

Developed in coordination with industry leaders, environmentalists and researchers, the proposal put forward by Senator McDowell today would gradually increase Delaware’s standard each year to a new end goal of 40 percent by 2035.

The proposed legislation seeks to reach the 2035 goal in part by creating incentives for communities to invest in their own solar energy generating facilities through a section of the legislation that would be known as the Community Sustainable Energy Authorities Act.

Every city, town and county in Delaware would be encouraged but not required to opt-in. They would be empowered to create their own Community Sustainable Energy Authorities to fund, develop and manage local solar arrays. Once built, those solar projects would be able to sell Community Solar Renewable Energy Credits (CSRECs) and apply those revenues toward the reduction of community members’ monthly utility bills.

“This is pioneering legislation that brings the sun’s energy directly to the people,” Senator McDowell said. “There is no need to pass through a corporate conglomerate. The consumer is the producer in this case, making each of them a ‘prosumer.’ Best of all, under this act, all who opt in will pay lower electricity rates.”

Senator McDowell hopes to formally introduce the RPS bill when the Legislature returns to session. The draft bill currently has at least 14 co-sponsors in the Senate and the House.

“Senator McDowell has been the driving force behind the renewable energy growth in Delaware. I am honored to join him as he leads Delaware into the next decade with a 15-percentage-point increase in renewable energy goal,” said Rep. Ed Osienski, D-Brookside, who will be the lead House sponsor of the proposal. “I am especially excited about the Community Sustainable Energy Authorities Act, which would authorize the creation and operation of community-based sustainable energy projects, which would increase participation by making it easier to access a renewable energy source while also benefiting lower-income Delawareans who are less economically able to participate in the transition to a sustainable energy economy.”

The proposal also is supported by industry leaders and environmental groups.

“Delaware’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) not only provides us with cleaner air to breathe, it also generates high-paying jobs for engineers, electricians and skilled technicians,” said Dale Davis, president of the Delaware Solar Energy Coalition and CMI Solar and Electric in Newark. “This bill will increase the demand for those jobs and put more people to work in this rapidly growing field.”

Sierra Club Delaware Chapter Director Sherri Evans-Stanton said the legislation would have even broader benefits.

“For generations, Delawareans have struggled with air pollution and a reliance on dirty fossil fuels for energy. This bill takes a vitally important next step to create an equitable transition to clean energy for all,” she said. “In addition to increasing the RPS, we are pleased that it establishes a model community solar program for the people, putting affordable solar energy within reach of all Delaware residents regardless of income level or the type of dwelling they live in. We commend Senator McDowell for his long-standing leadership to improve health and the environment in Delaware. With the introduction of this bill, he will cement his legacy as an energy policy innovator.”

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