Huddles over carbon reductions move to Harrisburg

     The Exelon-Community Energy Wind Farm at Somerset, Pennsylvania.  (PRNewsFoto/Community Energy)

    The Exelon-Community Energy Wind Farm at Somerset, Pennsylvania. (PRNewsFoto/Community Energy)

    President Barack Obama’s new Clean Power Plan requires Pennsylvania to cut carbon emissions from the power sector 23 percent by 2030.

    Exactly how it gets to that number — by shifting from coal to natural gas, incentivizing renewables, or increasing energy efficiency in homes, businesses and industrial settings — is now up to lawmakers in Harrisburg.


    The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has already started working toward a plan to meet the carbon reductions, which the state Legislature will have to approve and submit to Washington.

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    Lobbyists across the energy sector are now pushing for a mix of carbon reduction regulations that will help their bottom line.

    The Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance is lobbying for mandatory energy savings to meet some of the carbon reductions.

    “For a state like Pennsylvania that’s a huge electricity producer and a huge carbon dioxide emitter, we want to see efficiency be a big part of the equation,” said Matt Elliott, senior policy associate for the alliance, which represents member organizations in the energy efficiency industry.

    Pennsylvania’s Act 129, which sets targets for utilities to reduce energy demand, calls for reductions of just under 1 percent in its next phase, from 2016 to 2022.

    Elliott hopes to beef up reductions in future versions of that legislation and develop new policies to improve efficiency among residential, commercial, and industrial power users.

    “One policy option would be to reward utilities (for helping) their customers save energy, whether it’s a home or a business,” Elliott said. “Under that model, saving electricity becomes part of their business model just like selling electricity is part of their business model today.”

    Nationwide, the renewable energy industry is also looking for a boost from the president’s Clean Power Plan.

    In 2014, 4 percent of Pennsylvania’s electricity generation came from renewables.

    Former Pennsylvania solar installer Andrew Kleeman said the market for SRECS, or solar renewable energy credits, will need an overhaul to incentivize new solar projects in the Keystone State.

    “We need to do what every other state has done, and that is close our borders to our SREC markets so that the subsidies that Pennsylvania rate payers are paying go to Pennsylvania projects only,” Kleeman said.

    The market for renewable energy credits has bottomed out in recent years due to an oversupply of solar energy, reducing incentives for homeowners and businesses to install new solar arrays.

    The state’s Alternative Energy Portfolio requires 0.5 percent of the state’s energy to come from solar by 2021.

    Today, Pennsylvania produces more wind power than solar, enough to power about 330,000 homes. National analysts expect that capacity to increase with the implementation of the Clean Power Plan.

    “There is significant potential for expanded wind energy deployment in Pennsylvania,” said Tom Vinson, vice president for federal regulatory affairs at the American Wind Energy Association. “We certainly think it makes sense for the state of Pennsylvania to expand wind energy … to comply with the goals set by EPA.”

    The association is holding a forum for stakeholders in Harrisburg in October to discuss how to  increase demand for wind power in Pennsylvania, partly in light of the Clean Power Plan.

    Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has said he plans to work with industry leaders to find the right mix of clean coal, natural gas, solar, wind and other sources of power.

    State power plan drafts are due to the federal Environmental Protection Agency by September 2016 and will go into effect in 2022.

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