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New study shows PA missing valuable opportunities to tap into clean energy

For Immediate Release

[Philadelphia, PA] -- According to a new study released today by the PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center,  Pennsylvania has seen major increases in the amount of electricity it gets from the sun and wind since 2009, but the report shows that the Commonwealth isn't keeping up with many of the states that are more aggressively tapping into clean energy opportunities.

The report, Renewables on the Rise: A Decade of Progress Toward a Clean Energy Future, compares Pennsylvania to other states in the nation through a state-by-state assessment of the growth of key technologies needed to power the Commonwealth and nation with clean renewable energy, including wind, solar, energy efficiency, energy storage, and electric vehicles. Pennsylvania ranked 22nd for solar, 20th for energy efficiency, 16th for wind, and 8th in battery storage for growth between 2009 and 2018. The report showed encouraging progress over the last decade, while also highlighting the need for increased action at the state and federal level to make the Commonwealth a clean energy leader.

“Every day, there’s more evidence that a future fueled by renewable energy is within our reach,” said Flora Cardoni, Climate Defender Campaign Director for the PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center. “The progress we’ve made in the last decade on renewable energy and technology, like battery storage and electric cars, should give Pennsylvanians confidence that we can take clean energy to the next level. But there is still a lot of work to do to catch up to other states around the country and become a clean energy leader.” 

The study found that over the last decade, solar energy in Pennsylvania has seen a boom -- growing from just 11 GWh in 2009 to more than 510 GWh in 2018 -- a 47-fold increase, compared to the national average of 40-fold. However, Pennsylvania, as the 6th most populous state, still has a long way to go to become a solar leader -- ranking at just 22nd in the country for solar energy production. 

On a brighter note, Pennsylvania is showing major strides in energy storage capacity, ranking 8th 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 more than doubled the state’s wind capacity over the past decade and ranks in the top 20 states for increases in wind generation nationally.

“Pennsylvania has seen some progress on clean energy over the last decade,” said Cardoni.  “But, we are falling behind other states and have a long way to go to ensure that future generations of the Commonwealth have a livable climate. We need to move much faster and become a clean energy leader by shifting Pennsylvania as quickly as possible to 100% renewable energy.” 

The report describes the factors that caused rapid growth in each category around the country since 2009. These factors include innovative policies, improved technologies, and lower costs -- all of which suggest the potential for continued development in the years to come. 

However, while policies in other states are leading to massive growth, the lack of comprehensive policies in the Commonwealth is leaving Pennsylvania middling in the pack, getting only 3% of its total energy from wind and solar today. 

“We’re seeing some progress on solar and battery storage here in the Commonwealth,” said Cardoni, “but we’re falling behind and missing huge opportunities to protect our health and climate by taking clean energy to the next level. We must do more to make Pennsylvania a clean energy leader. Given the progress we’ve seen in other states and the technology we have at our fingertips, we know that much more can be done today.”

“Renewables on the Rise” comes as a diverse group of U.S. cities, states, corporations, and institutions across the country are committing to 100 percent renewable energy.  There are now six states that have made commitments to 100 percent clean electricity. Here in Pennsylvania, the movement for 100 renewable is building every day, with more than 100 bipartisan state legislators supporting bills in both chambers of the state general assembly to transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 (House Bill 1425 and Senate Bill 630). In addition, more than 180 major companies, including Google, PNC, Mars Candy, and Pocono Raceway here in PA, have committed to power their operations with 100 percent renewable energy. Now, it is time for our legislators across the Commonwealth to prioritize this transition. 

“The reality is inescapable: fossil fuels pollute our air, water, and land, threatening our health and changing our climate even faster than scientists predicted,” said Cardoni. “We need to seize the moment, build on recent progress, implement the technologies and policies at our fingertips, and lean into a future powered by 100% clean, renewable energy as quickly as possible.”

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PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center works for clean air, clean water, clean energy, wildlife, and open spaces, and a livable climate. Our members across the state put grassroots support behind our research and advocacy. PennEnvironment is part of Environment America, a national network of 29 state environmental groups. For more information about this or our other projects, visit www.PennEnvironment.org/Center.