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Local activists on 100-mile journey stop in Bristol Township to lobby PECO for more solar power

By May 19, 2017June 16th, 2017No Comments

Groups of acvists felt the sun beang down on them as they connued a 100‐mile walk, hoping to lobby PECO to harness that solar energy. Members from the Earth Quaker Acon Team and the Philadelphians Organized to Witness Empower and Rebuild have roamed and rambled about 85 miles so far in a circle through five counes in PECO’s coverage area — some traversing the whole route with others jumping in and out along the way. The walk is part of the groups’ ongoing “Power Local Green Jobs” campaign directed at the ulity. They began their journey May 8 at the Morris Chapel Bapst Church in North Philadelphia, traveling along sidewalks, trails and highways during the day and resng at night. They expected to finish Monday at PECO’s Philadelphia headquarters on the 2300 block of Market Street. “At the end of the day, I’m knackered,” laughed 79‐year‐old George Lakey, a rered college professor from West Philadelphia who’s walked the enre route so far, “but the next morning, I’m ready for another day. I’m pung my shoe leather where my consciousness is.”

About 30 Philadelphia area walkers, six from Bucks County, visited the Croydon Generang Staon — operated by PECO parent company Exelon — Friday morning, singing, channg and tong signs. One message they carried depicted a sun and read “PECO Local Solar Jobs Now!” Another declared “No More Fossil Fuel.” Croydon’s oil‐based staon in Bristol Township is one of several area sites the group intends to highlight, said EQAT board member Eileen Flanagan, explaining how the sites are less efficient than solar energy iniaves would be. On 90‐degree days like Friday, she said, the energy system can experience what’s called peak load, during which ulies must harness addional energy from plants to power devices like air condioners. “It’s old, inefficient types of plants used on those kinds of days, but a sunny day is a perfect day for solar energy,” she said. “That energy is accessible to everyone, not just customers, on those days of peak load.” Diana Collinelli, who lives nearby in Bristol Borough, came out to support the walkers and their advocacy, saying their ideas would help improve the quality of life for Bristol area residents. “I see burning fires (at plants), I smell terrible odors there, and the idea is to protect our community,” she said. Solar energy isn’t just efficient, said EQAT spokesman Greg Holt; it also could create more jobs at solar facilies and in maintaining panels.

Representatives from EQAT and PECO have spoken with each other about different proposals to introduce more solar energy in the state. PECO recently has been evaluating multiple solar energy concepts, said company spokesman Ben Armstrong. One would give customers the option to purchase a certain percentage of their power from in‐state solar families. Another involves erecting PECO‐owned solar facilities from which low‐income customers could receive bill credits. These ideas came up at a Solar Stakeholder Collaborate, which PECO launched to brainstorm solar ideas in response to pressure from activists. 6/8/2017 Local activists on 100-mile journey stop in Bristol Township to lobby PECO for more solar power | Local |

A specific benchmark for which the walkers are advocating is for PECO to increase its energy supply to 20 percent solar by 2025; presently, PECO supplies 0.25 percent solar energy. This is the minimum amount required under Pennsylvania’s Alternate Energy Porolio Standards regulations, which require states to supply 18 percent alternate energy by 2021, including 0.5 percent solar energy. Beyond the 0.25 percent minimum, the regulations state that PECO must supply its customers with the lowest‐cost energy available, said Armstrong, and solar energy is one slightly more expensive than other forms because supplemental energy can be needed when it’s not sunny.

The leveled cost of electricity for a conventional gas‐and‐steam plant entering service in 2022 is $59 per hour compared to $74 for a solar plant, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. “We share their desire to advance local solar, but we disagree on how to get there,” said Armstrong, adding that EQAT’s suggestions could double energy costs for customers. But Holt insists the company could do more. “The global consensus is that we need to be peaking carbon emissions in the next five years to create a sustainable culture, avoid mass migraines and droughts,” he said. “PECO needs a more ambitious goal.” Amy Ward Brimmer, a founding EQAT member from Yardley, did not walk herself but worked to coordinate meals and shelter for those on the move. “It’s been really interesting for them to get to know the whole footprint of PECO, which is the whole metro area,” she said. And EQAT has had success in lobbying larger companies in the past, said Upper Southampton resident Alice Maxfield, who has walked 20 miles with the group since Tuesday.

In 2015, activists successfully persuaded PNC Bank to end its financing of mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia via peaceful protests and a 200‐mile walk to the bank’s Pittsburgh headquarters, she said. Maxfield said, “I’m really excited about winning again.” Enjoying our content? Become a Bucks County Courier Times subscriber to support stories like these. Get full access to our signature journalism for just 44 cents a day.

Thomas Friestad: 215‐307‐0285; email:; Twier: @RealTomFriestad