Pa. state agencies used less energy in 2021, but lagged on electric vehicle goals

A solar array at the Nittany 1 Solar Farm

A solar array at the Nittany 1 Solar Farm is seen here in Lurgan Township, Franklin County on Nov. 24, 2020. (Rachel McDevitt/StateImpact Pennsylvania)

In the last three years, Pennsylvania state agencies’ energy use went down more than 12%, according to a report from the Pennsylvania GreenGov Council released Friday. But the state is falling behind on goals to buy electric vehicles.

“We must take action to protect Pennsylvania lives, homes, businesses and communities from climate change,” said Gov. Tom Wolf in a statement. “The commonwealth is leading by example to ensure that energy conservation and sustainability are integrated into all state agency operations.”

The Pa. GreenGov Council came out of a 2019 executive order by Gov. Wolf that set the state’s first climate goals. The council oversees state agencies’ progress toward greenhouse gas reduction goals, including reducing overall energy consumption 3% each year through 2025, replacing a quarter of the state passenger fleet with electric and hybrid vehicles by 2025, buying renewable energy credits and renewable power generated within the state, and building any new buildings or major renovations to high-performance building standards.

The reduction in state agencies’ energy usage the last three years has meant a savings for Pa. taxpayers of over $8 million.

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It also gets Pennsylvania closer to its goal of a 26% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions statewide by 2025, and an 80% reduction by 2050, compared to 2005 levels. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said the world needs to zero-out emissions around 2050 in order to avoid some of the worst impacts of climate change.

According to GreenGov Council’s 2021 annual report, state agencies have made progress toward most goals. State facilities saw a 3.2% reduction in energy usage from the previous year, and agencies bought enough Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) to offset 40% of their electricity load for 2021.

These credits should soon be replaced by solar energy generated in-state. Wolf’s solar initiative, Pennsylvania PULSE, is expected to create 191-megawatts of new solar energy this year — enough to cover about half of the state government’s electricity usage starting January 1, 2023.

But the state is lagging behind on its purchase of electric vehicles. Late last year, state agencies had just 64 battery electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, getting the state just 6% of the way toward GreenGov Council’s 2025 goal.

GreenGov Council blames the slow progress last year on “procurement bottlenecks” in the vehicle supply chain, with many orders pushed back due to vehicle manufacturing microchip shortages and other issues. The council has set a goal of bringing the state’s EV fleet up to 180 vehicles this year.

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