The conclusion of sessions in the Delaware and Pennsylvania legislatures offer a dynamic contrast to choices lawmakers made this summer to strengthen — or handicap — their clean energy economies. The Delaware General Assembly June 29 passed Senate Bill 119 to strengthen its Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard along with bills funding green energy programs and improving its “net metering” law while the Pennsylvania House of Representatives balked at House Bill 2405 to diversfy their energy sources with solar, among other incentives.

Proponents in each state — including Standard Solar — saw the opportunity and risk of not keeping up with states such as Maryland and Colorado to further incentivize purchases of solar electric systems. Delaware’s approach involved three separate bills (ergo the “hat trick”) under the leadership of Senator Harris McDowell. The Senate Bill 119 boosted its commitment to renewables to 13% of electricity sales by 2015, with 1% coming from solar. By 2025, that commitment rises to 25% of electricity sales with 3.5% from solar. Not bad for the nation’s First State.

Pennsylvania meanwhile tried an omnibus approach using one bill that attracted so many amendments (mostly from opponents) that House Bill 2405 failed of its own weight in the closing days. One amendment would have classified ‘new,’ additional generation from nuclear reactors as “renewable.” Had 2405 passed the House, it still would have needed to win passage in the Senate. The coal industry once again demonstrated considerable clout by arguing that any legislation for clean energy (including advanced coal technologies to reduce emissions) was a vote against traditional coal and therefore should be defeated. Even pro-solar Governor Ed Rendell, who leaves the Statehouse after 2010, could not persuade enough lawmakers to see the light.

The clean energy sweepstakes will be won by states that see the new good-paying jobs, stronger tax bases and cleaner environments as virtues that deserve to be incentivized long enough to continue driving down costs and attract significant private capital. It is truly surprising to see Pennsylvania, widely heralded as an early leader, ‘punt’ and fall back.