Energy diversification lowers prices for all consumers | Harrisburg Patriot-News

Harrisburg Patriot-News
August 4, 2022

When it comes to energy production, many Pennsylvanians tend to be Team Fossil Fuels or Team Renewables. However, the focus right now needs to be on diversifying our energy mix.

We will not be moving to 100% clean energy in the next decade, but a little more renewables on the grid will actually lower prices for all energy consumers.

The high energy prices Pennsylvanians are facing now are a direct result of the lack of diversification in our energy mix. Natural gas dominates Pennsylvania’s electricity market, generating over 50 percent and projected to take over close to 70 percent by 2030, because it’s hedging out coal and nuclear energy. In May, Pennsylvania’s Public Utility Commission warned us that electric utilities are increasing their prices this summer by 6 to 45 percent due to growing demand for natural gas from Europe.

The lesson here is that Pennsylvania must stop relying so heavily on volatile energy resources that are constantly disrupted by world events. To stabilize our energy bills, we need to diversify by putting more renewables on the grid.

Our electricity mix in Pennsylvania consists of less than 4 percent renewables, with only 0.5 percent from solar. Increasing solar energy to just 10 percent by 2030 would lower the cost of electricity because solar conveniently works best during the hottest hours of the summer when things like air conditioners are running full force and electricity prices increase. Once there is enough solar on the grid, it can displace electricity from more expensive resources that are turned on to meet peak demand.

While these “peaker” plants may only run a few hours a year, they are consistently the most expensive energy throughout the year, and significantly increase the price of electricity.

Solar energy is the least expensive energy available. Once the solar technology (aka, solar panels) is paid for, the energy from the sun is always free. There is no volatile worldwide market to trade sun rays, and therefore, it’s not subject to price hikes

Because solar works so beautifully during the middle of the day when energy demand is at its highest, it can help smooth out the big price peaks, which meshes well with other energy resources that pick up the slack when the sun isn’t shining. And with more battery storage, there are increasing opportunities to store solar energy and use it at other times to keep prices affordable.

Solar is already helping. More than 30,000 homeowners, farms, businesses, local governments, and faith communities who have gone solar in Pennsylvania have lowered or even eliminated their electricity bills – all while maintaining their normal energy usage levels.

These solar pioneers have achieved true energy freedom. Now it’s Pennsylvania’s turn. Passing laws to boost our renewables sector would not only help to rein in electricity bills, but would also attract billions of dollars in investment and create tens of thousands of good-paying jobs across the employment spectrum – from construction and manufacturing to sales, finance, and engineering.

Yet our state legislators left Harrisburg for the summer without enacting any new policies to diversify our energy mix – and with millions of households left trying to figure out how they will pay their newly increased energy bills. There will be no end to these unpredictable price increases unless Harrisburg finally takes action.

Tell your legislators that it’s time for Pennsylvania’s energy independence – and to diversify our energy mix with more renewable sources. Diversification is the only way Pennsylvania will find true energy freedom.

Matt Mahoney is Director of Government Affairs for the PA Solar Center, a nonprofit organization based in Pittsburgh dedicated to bringing the benefits of solar energy to all Pennsylvanians.

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