On Tuesday, Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery/Delaware) joined State Representative Greg Vitali (D-Delaware) and environmental organizations at a press conference to unveil a bill that would increase the amount of renewable energy powering Pennsylvania homes and businesses by boosting the state’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS).
Both the Senate bill, and a mirror bill pending in the House (H.B. 100) would amend the AEPS by requiring Pennsylvania electric companies to obtain 15 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2023. Currently, the standard requires just 8 percent by 2020.
Pennsylvania’s AEPS, created in 2004, requires each electric distribution company and electric generation supplier in Pennsylvania to supply 18 percent of the state’s electricity using “alternative-energy” resources by 2020. Yet this does not mean 18 percent renewable energy. There are two categories of energy sources under the law: “Tier 1” and “Tier 2.” The current standard requires utilities to generate 8 percent of their electricity by using Tier 1 energy sources (solar, hydro, geothermal, and wind) and 10 percent using Tier 2 sources (large-scale hydro and integrated gasification combined cycle technology) by May 31, 2021. This works out to an 8 percent actual renewable energy standard on the books today, not 18 percent. The new legislation would boost that to 15 percent by 2023.
Pennsylvania’s current 8 percent renewable energy requirement is overshadowed by neighboring states Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Ohio.
• Delaware: 25 percent by 2026 (3.5 percent solar)• Maryland: 20 percent by 2022 (2 percent solar)• New Jersey: 20.38 percent by 2021 (4.1 percent solar by 2028)• New York: 29 percent by 2015 (customer-sited incentives for solar)• Ohio: 12.5 percent by 2024 (0.5 percent solar)
“By amending these standards, we will not only reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, we’ll also make Pennsylvania competitive with neighboring states, create thousands of jobs, stimulate the economy with investment capital, protect our environment and preserve public health. Those are all investments that we need to make in our Commonwealth, and will make by passing this legislation,” said Sen. Leach.
Pennsylvania’s AEPS also has a solar carve-out of 0.5 percent by 2021, a mandate requiring a minimum percentage of electricity generated by photovoltaics (PV). The bills introduced by Sen. Leach and Rep. Vitali would triple the solar carve-out to 1.5 percent by 2023.
“Increasing [the] Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS) is the most effective way for Pennsylvania to expand its production of renewable energy,” wrote Rep. Vitali.
The goal of the bills is to keep pace with neighboring states in developing and generating renewable energy, and remain competitive in building a green economy through job creation. Local officials will state that the Marcellus Shale industry in Pennsylvania has created jobs, but will overlook the fact that the natural gas boom in the state has caused over 3,000 violations of environmental standards, polluted drinking water, created radioactive rivers, and poisoned the air.
Additionally, investing in renewable energy produces a much larger expansion of employment than spending the same amount on fossil fuels. Investors wanting to deploy capital for renewable energy projects look at states with strong renewable energy standards and favorable solar energy policies. And these investments in renewable energy projects provide a hedge against natural gas prices in the future, which protects consumers.
Transitioning away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy development will not only spur capital investments and create jobs — expanding the AEPS will also clean the air and help address climate change since Pennsylvania currently ranks third in the country in carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector thanks to being a top coal producing state.