By Nicholas Parsons
Nicholas Parsons is a junior at the University of Pennsylvania studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics.
PA State Representative Chris Rabb recently introduced legislation that would commit Pennsylvania to 100% renewable energy by 2050 . This bill would establish commissions for developing plans to transition Pennsylvania’s workforce using short-term benchmarks. Such a change would potentially lead to an uptick in clean energy jobs, while increasing the quality of the air that we breathe. But this is not the first step forward for renewable energy in the state of Pennsylvania; over the past couple decades, numerous bills have been passed to help the transition towards clean energy.
The first such bill to break the mold was the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act (AEPS), in 2004. In essence, the bill states that Pennsylvania must draw from renewable energy sources for 8% of their energy consumption by 2021 . This act was, at its time, far-reaching in terms of environmental standards. However, today, the effect of AEPS is considerably limited. Pennsylvania’s renewable energy has only increased from 3% to 4% since 2010, and the state is surrounded by states with far more ambitious standards, such as New Jersey with a goal of 22.5% by 2020 .
This bill was amended in 2017 to help drive down the cost of in-state solar projects. Prior to the amendment, other states could attain solar credits by selling their solar energy products to Pennsylvania, but Pennsylvania could not sell solar products to other states to earn the same. Essentially, the amendment prevents other states from “double-counting” for both the Pennsylvania AEPS and their own versions by selling their product to Pennsylvania. In the words of the amendment, an outside-of-state organization may not count their product towards AEPS unless they “[sell] those credits to the electric distribution company or electric generation supplier.”  Theoretically, this would unravel the economic imbalance caused by previous standards.
Another act was passed during Special Session in 2008, which established several programs, including the Alternative Energy Development Program, the Home Energy Efficiency Loan Program and the Consumer Energy Program, among others . Following this act, Alternative Energy Investment Act and the Biofuel Development and In-State Production Incentive Act were passed. The former act set up the distribution of loans or grants for several projects, including alternative or clean energy projects, energy efficient projects for individuals or small businesses, and alternative energy production projects . The latter legislation mandated that a minimum amount of ethanol and biodiesel must be incorporated in gasoline and diesel fuel .
Although this list is not extensive, it demonstrates the gradual but increasing role that Pennsylvania has played in the transition to a framework that supports the purchase and use of renewable energy sources. If a 100% renewable energy bill like Chris Rabb’s gets passed, it will further Pennsylvania’s use of renewable energy, allowing its standards to catch up to neighboring states like New Jersey and New York. This could have positive ramifications for Pennsylvania’s job market, as well as for the pureness of the air we breathe and the water we drink.
 Center, Legislative Data Processing. “House Co-Sponsorship Memoranda.” The Official Website for the Pennsylvania General Assembly. http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/Legis/CSM/showMemoPublic.cfm?chamber=H&SPick=20170&cosponId=24819.
 “AEPS: Requiring PA's Electric Companies To Buy Power From Alternative Sources.” NPR. https://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/tag/aeps/.
 January 27, 2018 Mark Szybist. “PA's Renewable Energy Goals Are Not in the Super Bowl.” NRDC. February 09, 2018. https://www.nrdc.org/experts/mark-szybist/eagles-are-renewable-energy-winners-pennsylvania-isnt.
 Legislative Data Processing Center. “Bill Information - Senate Bill 404; Regular Session 2017-2018.” The Official Website for the Pennsylvania General Assembly. http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/billInfo/billInfo.cfm?sYear=2017&sInd=0&body=S&type=B&bn=0404.
 Center, Legislative Data Processing. “Bill Information - House Bill 1; Special Session 1 2007-2008.” The Official Website for the Pennsylvania General Assembly. http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/billinfo/billinfo.cfm?syear=2007&sInd=1&body=H&type=B&bn=1.
 “Energy Programs.” PA Department of Community & Economic Development. https://dced.pa.gov/programs-funding/commonwealth-financing-authority-cfa/energy-programs/.
 PA.Gov. “Biofuel Development and In-State Production.” Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. http://www.agriculture.pa.gov/consumer_protection/weights_measures/Biofuel Development and In-State Production/Pages/default.aspx.
Photo Credit: Activ Solar, Flickr
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