Pennsylvania has recently been under the spotlight in the context of the U.S. presidential election as a key swing state. As Pennsylvania goes, so, too, may the country as a whole. As in politics, Pennsylvania could also be seen as a microcosm for the country when it comes to the energy challenges states face in a carbon-constrained world. As the nation’s third-largest energy producer, the top electricity exporter, and a notable electricity market deregulation pioneer, Pennsylvania has the opportunity to be an impactful clean-energy leader, but it faces considerable challenges from a long legacy of reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear resources.
In a new report co-authored with Synapse Energy Economics, prepared for the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, EQ Research describes a pathway for Pennsylvania to achieve a 100% renewable energy future. The report utilizes detailed electric system modeling based on the adoption of an ambitious but achievable suite of policy goals to construct a glide path for driving energy-based carbon-dioxide emissions to zero by 2050 (see Figure 1 below).
This transition has three principle components: energy efficiency, end use and vehicle electrification, and renewable energy (see Figure 2 below). In order to plot a pathway for Pennsylvania to meet a 100% renewable energy by 2050 target, the report then describes the current state of each component in Pennsylvania, summarizes the current policy landscape, and identifies the various options and reforms that would be needed to make such a transition.
- Energy Efficiency. Pennsylvania can adopt substantially more ambitious energy efficiency resource standards and building energy codes, which currently lag behind other leading states. Improving the availability of financing mechanisms for energy efficiency, including on-bill financing or property-assessed clean energy (PACE), can help overcome barriers related to the initial upfront cost of the technologies. Finally, improving electricity ratemaking practices so that both customers and electric utilities are incentivized to adopt and promote energy efficiency, respectively, can provide critical market signals for energy efficiency.
- Electrification. Eliminating point-of-use fossil-fuel consumption and replacing it with electrified options is essential to eliminate emissions from transportation and heating end-uses, among others. Promising policy pathways to promote transportation electrification include incentive programs for EVs and EV-charging equipment, setting specific EV and EV-charging station goals or mandates, and providing “convenience” incentives to reward early EV adopters. Likewise, energy-efficient electric heating options can be encouraged through financial incentives like equipment rebates, increasing financing options, and adoption of variety of regulatory changes to discourage fossil-fueled-based heating options and encourage electric heating options.
- Renewable Energy. Pennsylvania currently meets nearly 96 percent of its electricity needs through nuclear, natural gas and coal resources. To achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, Pennsylvania can build in-state wind, water and solar energy resources, and purchase renewable energy credits generated by these resources in the other 12 states that are part of the same wholesale electricity market, the PJM Interconnection. The development of in-state renewable resources could be facilitated through improvements in planning, zoning, siting, permitting and interconnection standards.
All together, these policy pathways can lead to a net increase of approximately 14,300 jobs and 81 gigawatts (i.e., 81 million kilowatts) of renewable energy resources built in Pennsylvania by 2050, 90 percent of which would come from rooftop solar and solar farms. Pennsylvania’s demand for renewable energy would also lead to an additional 138 gigawatts of additional wind and solar energy from nearby states sharing the same wholesale electricity market.
The full report is available here.
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