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Advocates, lawmakers call on Pa. to recommit to clean energy

(Source: Nature Conservancy)

Pennsylvania has fallen way behind in the move toward clean energy, according to the environmental think tank PennEnvironment.

The commonwealth ranks 50th out of 51 among U.S. states and the District of Columbia in the growth of solar, wind and geothermal energy as a percentage of total generation since 2013, according to a study released this week by Environment America, PennEnvironment’s parent entity.

Only Alaska fared worse. Statistics from the study are available on an online dashboard.

By the numbers: Pa. clean energy rankings, 2013-22

  • Wind: 21st | 27th in growth
  • Solar: 26th | 21st in growth
  • EV sales: 11th | 10th in growth
  • EV charging ports: 11th | 11th in growth
  • Energy savings: 15th | 50th in growth
  • Battery storage capacity: 18th | 17th in growth

Source: Renewables on the Rise, Environment America

Pennsylvania tripled its solar generation, for example, but the rest of the country saw 12-fold growth. Overall, the state generates 3% of its electricity from renewables, versus 2% in 2013.

Meanwhile, the effects of Pennsylvania’s energy efficiency programs are waning, saving just a third of the energy they did 10 years ago.

In a webinar Wednesday, several Democratic lawmakers joined PennEnvironment’s Ellie Kerns to call for change.

They are calling on the state legislature to pass a number of stalled bills that would promote efficiency and clean energy goals, such as SB 422, which would commit the state to transitioning to 100% renewable energy by 2050.

The organization also called on lawmakers to support Pennsylvania’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a market for trading carbon credits to incentivize clean energy investments; and to embrace the incentives in the federal Inflation Reduction Act.

Gov. Josh Shapiro has been skeptical of RGGI and Republican lawmakers have filed a lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s enrollment, saying Shapiro’s predecessor, Gov. Tom Wolf, lacked standing to authorize the state’s participation.

“We are leaving money on the table,” said state Rep. Danielle Friel Otten, D-Chester, sponsor of a bill to commit Pennsylvania to 30% renewable energy by 2030.

Reducing climate change “should and can be a bipartisan goal,” said state Rep. Joe Webster, D-Montgomery, sponsor of a bill to expand infrastructure for electric vehicles.

EVs are a bright spot in PennEnvironment’s report: The state ranked No. 10 for EVs sold and No. 11 for EV chargers added.

The cost of solar is plummeting, and more than eight out of 10 Pennsylvanians support rooftop solar, said Elowyn Corby of the nonprofit Vote Solar.

“Scientists are clear – to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis, we need to get to 100% renewable energy by 2050 at the latest,” Kerns said.

“… It’s critical for Gov. Shapiro and the state legislature to make Pennsylvania a leader, not a laggard, in the renewable energy economy.”