Gov. Shapiro must keep his campaign promise to go 30 by 30 in Pennsylvania | Opinion

Harrisburg Patriot News/PennLive
December 1, 2023

In 2022, now-Gov. Josh Shapiro made a campaign promise to go “30 by 30,” signifying his goal to secure 30 percent of PA’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030. But no meaningful action has taken place to achieve this goal to date.

Updating Pennsylvania’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS) is key to fulfilling this promise. The outdated, 20-year-old AEPS mandates that 7.5% of our electricity comes from renewable energy generated within our state or anywhere in our 13-state electric grid (called PJM) and just 0.5% to come from Pennsylvania-based solar by 2021. These goals have been met and this policy has driven investment in renewables with now more than 46,000 facilities in the state and more than 10,000 people working in renewable energy industries.

The economic driver of the AEPS is its energy credit trading system that provides alternative energy credits to renewable energy generators that are exchanged on a marketplace. Electric utilities buy as many credits as required by the AEPS. The price of credits drives investment decisions into renewables by small (including homeowners) and large renewable purchasers alike.

Because the AEPS goals have not been updated, the price of the credits is plummeting. While we will continue to see the build-out of renewables because of the federal Inflation Reduction Act, investors have their sights on states with competitive state incentives to pair with federal programs. To illustrate, a recent study by PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center showed that Pennsylvania ranks 50th in the nation for percent growth in renewables generation since 2013, precisely because we have not updated the AEPS.

This avoidance to update the AEPS law has already cost Pennsylvania residents, businesses, municipalities, and schools millions of dollars as evident by the huge spikes in electricity prices across the state by 40% – 50% or more in the past two years.

Expanding renewable markets is the key to diversifying our energy mix, reducing electricity rates, and lowering reliance on natural gas, which (at this rate) would comprise about 70% of our electricity mix by 2030. This is a precarious situation for ratepayers, as volatile natural gas fuel prices are at the mercy of worldwide market forces wrought by geopolitical issues.

Since renewable fuel sources (wind and sun) are free (investors just need to pay for the upfront equipment), pricing for renewables is stable and doesn’t fluctuate after project construction. And according to the Finding Pennsylvania’s Solar Future study, once Pennsylvania reaches just 5 percent solar on the grid, wholesale electricity pricing starts to drop and that saves everyone money – even if you don’t have solar — because solar is now the cheapest form of energy in the country.

We see firsthand how organizations and businesses are saving thousands of dollars in utility bills with solar, from a small manufacturer in Lawrence County to a low-income multifamily housing facility in the city of Pittsburgh to a dairy farm in Chester County. There are thousands more entities across the state that would benefit by the AEPS law being updated as savings from solar helps divert precious funds from utility bills to the mission of their organizations, or to hire more workers.

State House Bill 1467 would expand the AEPS renewable energy goals to 30% by 2030. It would also increase the in-state solar goals from 0.5% to 14% and finally enable community solar – which allows people to subscribe to a portion of electricity generated by an off-site solar project and get credit on their utility bill, benefiting customers such as renters.

And research shows that moving to just 10% solar would create upwards of 70,000 jobs by 2030 and spur billions in private investment into our state.

So, why is it that the Pennsylvania General Assembly has worked session after session to quell advancement of clean energy as other states reap the benefits of modernizing their grids, reduce carbon and air pollution, save their citizens money, and create tens of thousands of jobs?

Gov. Shapiro, our hope lies with you to be the catalytic leader Pennsylvania needs to go 30 by 30.

Sharon Pillar is founder and Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Solar Center, a 501c3 nonprofit organization with the mission to expand the benefits of solar to all Pennsylvanians.

Up Next: Indiana Borough seeks RFPs for solar developers for sewage treatment plant