Stronger Clean Energy Policies, Carbon Trading Could Yield Significant Economic Rewards for Pennsylvania

Consumer Savings, Hundreds of Millions of Dollars in State Revenue Projected

Published Feb 18, 2016

HARRISBURG (February 18, 2016)—New analysis released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) shows that strengthening Pennsylvania’s clean energy policies, together with a carbon trading program, provides a cost-effective way for the state to cut global warming emissions, deliver significant health and economic benefits to residents, and comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. 

Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay regarding implementation of the Clean Power Plan until the rule’s content is evaluated. Acknowledging the benefits and economic incentives that come from investing in cleaner energy sources, Governor Wolf has wisely said the state will move forward with crafting the state’s compliance plan. This will ensure Pennsylvania maintains momentum transitioning to low-carbon energy while waiting for the Clean Power Plan to be legally resolved.

“The Supreme Court’s procedural decision doesn’t change the reality of climate change or the urgent need to curb our use of carbon-producing energy sources,” said Jeremy Richardson, study author and senior energy analyst at UCS. “Pennsylvania has an opportunity here to lower consumers’ electric bills and raise hundreds of millions of dollars a year by auctioning carbon emission permits. This money could in turn be invested in things like renewables or energy efficiency to decrease electric bills for homes and businesses even further, or provide workforce training and economic development in southwestern Pennsylvania’s struggling coal communities. This is something everyone should be able to support.”

The UCS study found that strengthening and extending its energy efficiency and renewable energy targets would:

  • Generate an average of $804 million annually from the sale of carbon allowances that could be invested in Pennsylvania’s economy;
  • Lead to $4.3 billion invested in energy efficiency improvements to benefit Pennsylvania’s consumers;
  • Reduce the typical Pennsylvania resident’s electricity bills more than 3 percent by 2030 for an annual savings of $54 per household;
  • Spur 10,700 megawatts of new wind and solar capacity in Pennsylvania by 2030 to generate more than $10 billion in new capital investment;
  • Avoid 131 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions through 2030; and
  • Yield health and economic benefits worth an estimated $4.5 billion cumulatively through 2030 by avoiding carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pollution.

In 2014, most of the state’s electricity generation came from nuclear power (38 percent) and coal (36 percent), with the remainder coming from natural gas (22 percent) and renewables (4 percent). According to a recent U.S. Department of Energy analysis, Pennsylvania had the economic potential to derive nearly half of its electricity sales in 2014 from renewable energy—led primarily by utility-scale solar and wind.

“By relying almost exclusively on fossil fuels and nuclear power for its energy supply, Pennsylvania isn’t living up to its full potential,” said Richardson. “But with well-designed policies, it can easily be transformed into a clean energy leader.”

Based on the report’s findings, UCS recommends that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection develop a compliance plan for the Clean Power Plan that includes carbon trading and that the General Assembly endorse a carbon trading program with auctioned allowances to raise revenues, as well as stronger renewable energy and energy efficiency standards.

Click here to view a related blog by Richardson.