Op-Ed: Pennsylvania Must Shift To Renewables
By: Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware), Minority Chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee
"Over the past year, we've seen record-breaking heat and drought across the U.S., devastating wildfires out west, and here in the east, the tremendous flooding and damage associated with the unprecedented Superstorm Sandy. Collectively these events are symptomatic of the warming of our planet and the changes in climate and weather patterns resulting from our continued burning of fossil fuels."
So stated distinguished Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann at a recent Harrisburg news conference.
Climate change is the most important environmental problem facing the planet. To solve this problem we must rapidly transition from fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas to renewable forms of energy like wind, solar and geothermal. Pennsylvania, which produces 1 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases, must do its part.
Recently I introduced two bills which would increase renewable energy production in Pennsylvania.
House Bill 100 would amend the Pennsylvania Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard Act to require Pennsylvania electric distribution companies like PECO and PPL to obtain 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2023. The requirement is currently 8 percent by 2021.
Increasing its Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS) is the most effective way for Pennsylvania to expand its production of renewable energy. Many other states have already increased their renewable energy standards. New Jersey will require 17.88 percent of its energy to come from renewable sources by 2021.
House Bill 100 would accomplish the equivalent of taking more than four million cars off the road, according to the PennFuture energy center.
The cost of Pennsylvania’s AEPS is relatively small. The PennFuture energy center estimated that the cost of implementing the AEPS in 2011 was only 6.6 cents per month for residential consumers. In contrast, the damage from Superstorm Sandy was estimated to be as high as $60 billion.
A second renewable energy bill-- House Bill 200-- would provide $25 million per year to the Pa. Sunshine Solar program. This popular program has provided rebates to homeowners and small businesses that install solar systems. The program was initially funded by a $100 million bond issue in 2008, but it has run out of money. The new funding would come from the recently enacted Marcellus Shale impact fee.
Acting Pennsylvania Consumer Advocate Tanya McCloskey recently testified that the Pa. Sunshine Solar program “has provided important support for the development of small scale solar systems that benefit both the individual residential utility consumer installing the system and the utility system as a whole.” This worthwhile program should not be allowed to end.
In addition to combating climate change, both House Bill 100 and House Bill 200 would create good green jobs and foster energy independence.
If the Pennsylvania General Assembly wants to do its part in addressing climate change it should act on both these bills without delay.
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