New interactive map highlights renewable energy projects across Pa.

A new interactive map highlighting renewable energy projects across Pennsylvania was unveiled Tuesday by PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center. 

The map spotlights one renewable energy or energy efficiency project in each of the state’s 67 counties. According to a press release, the vibrancy and growth of the clean energy sector across Pennsylvania is a highlight of the map. 

Pennsylvanians can use the map to explore innovative clean energy products in each county and learn how to contribute to clean energy adoption. In the Susquehanna Valley, the interactive website highlights solar panels at Steelton-Highspire School District in Dauphin County. 

Ellie Kerns, climate field associate with PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center, said renewable energy projects are on the rise across the state. 

“In red, blue, and purple counties, and across rural, suburban, and urban counties, Pennsylvania communities are making huge strides to bring wind, solar, and energy efficient projects online at a rapid clip,” said Kerns. 

With far-reaching incentives in the new federal inflation Reduction Act, renewable energy and energy efficiency projects look to be more affordable and available to Pennsylvania businesses, residents, and non-profit organizations. These projects will help Pennsylvanians reduce air and climate pollution, save money on utility bills, and support a clean energy-based economy. 

“As we continue to move the needle towards a clean energy future we’re seeing more customers, especially school districts, realize the financial and environmental benefits of integrating solar and other renewable energy sources into their sustainability plan,” said Dan Pietropola, McClure Company’s Vice President of Business Development. 

According to the release, the total energy production of the projects highlighted in the interactive map is enough to power more than half a million Pennsylvanian homes annually. 

“So much of what we have to do is not come up with new stuff, but to invest in the things that already exist,” said State Representative Chris Rabb (D-Philadelphia). “And we also have to increase our literacy on how and why we need to move to a 100% renewable energy future, because it’s not science fiction. We have all the technology we need right now to get there.”

Planet Home Lending opens Bethlehem branch, its first in Pa.

Planet Home Lending, a national mortgage lender and servicer, is opening a branch office in Bethlehem.

Part of the company’s continued expansion across the U.S., the office at 236 Brodhead Road is Planet Home Lending’s first location in Pennsylvania.

The Bethlehem office will be led by retail branch managers Christopher Lewis and Nick DeJesus and Sales Manager Andrew Keller.

“Planet’s efficiencies allow us to deliver what first-time homebuyers expect in the Lehigh Valley market,” DeJesus said in a release.

Home sellers and homebuilders can use Planet’s rate buydowns to help make house purchases more affordable. The company also offers down payment and closing cost assistance nationwide.

Among the tools available to Lehigh Valley borrowers are Planet Home Lending’s personal digital mortgage assistant, Skymore, which enables consumers to apply for a home loan from anywhere via their mobile device. Using Skymore, borrowers and real estate agents (with the borrower’s permission) can track loan progress 24/7, reach out to ask their loan officer questions and submit paperwork electronically.

“Full of historic charm, the Greater Lehigh Valley area has long been a draw for people because of its convenient location between New York City and Philadelphia, and this continues to be true,” said Michael Dubeck, CEO and president of Meriden, Connecticut-based Planet Financial Group, parent of Planet Home Lending.

“Lehigh County has seen home prices appreciate, posting gains of 14% in October, according to Greater Lehigh Valley Realtors’ data. Planet Home Lending is equipped with the resources to help homebuyers and homeowners in this desirable market.”

The latest branch opening comes days after the company released its third-quarter earnings, which showed a 14.1% increase in home loan volume from the previous quarter despite the slow market.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Pennsylvania hospital margins thin following COVID-19

Pennsylvania hospitals saw a 33% loss in operating income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new fiscal report by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4).

In a new report documenting the margins of hospitals throughout the state, PHC4 reported a decrease in operating income from $2.8 billion in fiscal year 2019 to $1.9 billion in fiscal year 2020, a decrease of 33% statewide.

PHC4’s annual report on the financial health of Pennsylvania hospitals, titled Financial Analysis 2020, used hospital data from 164 general acute-care hospitals licensed in the Commonwealth.

The report found that the total margin realized by Pennsylvania’s hospitals decreased by 2.7 percentage points, from 6.63% in fiscal year 2019 to 3.93% in fiscal year 2020. The statewide operating margin decreased 1.89 points from 5.61% to 3.73%, according to the report.

“This significant change in operating and total margins reflects the financial impact on hospitals due to the pandemic COVID 19 crisis,” said Joe Martin, executive director for PHC4. “Many hospitals will face serious financial challenges as Pennsylvania works to mitigate the fiscal impact of the epidemic.”

The number of hospitals that posted low or negative margins is a troubling indicator for hospitals moving forward, according to Martin.

“In fiscal year 2020, 38% of Pennsylvania hospitals posted a negative operating margin, and 18% of Pennsylvania hospitals posted an operating margin between 0% and 4%,” he said. “38% of Pennsylvania hospitals posted a negative total margin and 17% of Pennsylvania hospitals posted a total margin between 0% and 4%.”