New report shows Pennsylvania lags behind in renewable energy development, despite nationwide growth
[Philadelphia] - Pennsylvania ranks 35th in the nation for percentage of solar and wind in the state’s electricity mix and 22nd for growth in solar energy production since 2010, according to a new report released today by PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center. The study, Renewables on the Rise 2020, documents and compares the growth of five key clean energy technologies in each state over the past decade: solar power, wind power, battery storage, energy efficiency and electric vehicles. While Pennsylvania has seen solar power grow 7-fold and wind power double since 2010, that pales in comparison to the 30-fold growth in solar and tripling in wind power seen nationwide.
“There’s no getting around the fact that Pennsylvania is falling behind when it comes to transitioning to a cleaner, healthier future powered by renewable energy. Americans have been clamoring for clean energy over the past decade, and sadly Pennsylvania hasn’t answered the call,” said Kelly Flanigan, Global Warming Solutions Associate with PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center. “But, the gains we’ve seen from coast to coast and right here in Pennsylvania in energy storage and electric vehicles should give Pennsylvanians the confidence we need to pick up the pace and catch up with our neighbors.”
On a brighter note, Pennsylvania is showing major strides in energy storage capacity, ranking 10th in the nation. Battery storage allows electricity providers to add wind and solar energy into the mix by storing this energy for later use and is a crucial piece of this renewable energy transition. Pennsylvania has also added more than 21,000 electric vehicles since 2010 -- the 14th largest growth in EV sales nationally.
"The fact that Pennsylvania gets less than 3% of its electricity from wind and solar energy is a stark reminder that we have a long way to go for the Keystone State to do its part to tackle climate change," noted state Representative Elizabeth Fiedler. "It's time for Pennsylvania to invest more in jobs that will be part of solving our climate crisis."
In addition to offering a state-by-state assessment of the growth of key clean energy technologies, the study also shows the rapid gains achieved overall nationally. In 2019, the U.S. produced 30 times more solar power and more than triple the amount of wind energy than it did in 2010. In addition to the growth in renewable energy, utility scale battery storage increased 20-fold since 2010, energy consumption per person declined thanks to improvements in energy efficiency, and more than one million electric vehicles were sold in the U.S.
While Pennsylvania has lagged behind on renewable energy growth, there are a number of policies being proposed to put the Commonwealth on the right path. These include:
Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI): Last fall, Governor Wolf announced his intent to have the Commonwealth join the nation’s most successful state-level program for reducing carbon pollution -- RGGI. Joining the program would cap carbon emissions from power plants in the state, and could raise millions of dollars for clean energy production and energy conservation.
100% Renewable Energy: House Bill 1425 and Senate Bill 630 in the General Assembly would transition Pennsylvania to 100% renewable energy by 2050, and has bipartisan support from over 100 legislators.
Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards (AEPS): House Bill 1195 and Senate Bill 600 would renew and expand the AEPS, requiring all electric suppliers to get 30% of their energy from wind and solar energy, and other sources by 2030.
Community Solar: House Bill 531 would allow neighbors to come together to install “community solar” to share the benefits of solar power without having to install solar panels on their property. This legislation also has bipartisan support.
Electric Vehicle (EV) Infrastructure: Senate Bill 596 would expand electric vehicle infrastructure, making it easier and more cost-effective for Pennsylvanians to drive EVs. The legislation passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support (43-6) and awaits further action in the state House.
"Pennsylvania has seen promising growth in renewable and clean energy investments and technologies, but we can do more,” said state Representative Carolyn Comitta. “My legislation, HB1195, would adjust our Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards (AEPS) from 8 percent to 30 percent by 2030 and will lead a path to reducing our carbon footprint. The urgency of the climate crisis requires us to act now. Moving towards expanding Pennsylvania's AEPS will not only set us to the same standards as our neighboring states, but also lead us to stronger renewable energy goals. We have a constitutional right to clean air and water. Ensuring a sustainable and clean Pennsylvania for future generations should remain a top priority of the legislature."
“Our research offers a timely reminder that we have an immense, largely untapped opportunity when it comes to clean energy here in Pennsylvania,” Flanigan said. “We have seen some progress toward the clean, renewable energy future we need already, but we need to lean in and commit to moving faster in the decade ahead to make that future a reality.”
PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center is dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces. We work to protect the places we love, advance the environmental values we share, and win real results for our environment. For more information, visit www.pennenvironmentcenter.org.