Earlier this month the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, an agency created by the Pennsylvania General Assembly to conduct research on issues that impact rural communities and recommend policies to benefit rural residents, released a report that demonstrates the overwhelming public support for renewable energy, especially solar and wind power. Not only do both rural and urban residents favor increasing Pennsylvania’s supply of renewable energy, they are willing to pay up to $55 a year for the increase.
Data gathered through an extensive mail survey and in-person focus groups found that Pennsylvanians understand that growing our supply of clean, renewable energy will help us become energy independent. They also found that people overwhelmingly support energy conservation and efficiency measures and think conservation and efficiency deserve more attention from individuals and local governments and the state and federal government. They also think energy policy is important and are concerned that there is no long-term, comprehensive energy policy at either the state or federal level.
Overall, the report found strong preferences for energy generated by hydropower, solar and wind power and for energy conservation. Energy generated by burning waste coal was the least preferred. While there was strong support for renewable energy across the political spectrum, there was an interesting split in energy preferences between those who identified themselves as being liberal or moderate and self-identified conservatives with liberals and moderates strongly preferring renewables and conservatives leaning more toward natural gas, nuclear and coal-generated energy.
Other findings of the report:
· 79 percent agreed that they want more of Pennsylvania’s electricity to come from renewable energy sources;
· 65 percent disagreed that the government should not encourage the development of renewable energy because of cost;
· 51 percent agreed that the state’s renewable energy standard – the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS) – should be made stronger; and,
· 66 percent agreed that all Pennsylvanians should share any increased cost of generating renewable energy.
The AEPS, enacted in 2004, has been highly successful. At the time, it gave Pennsylvania one of the strongest renewable energy standards – 18 percent of our electricity must come from alternative energy sources with 8 percent coming from wind, solar and other renewable sources by 2019. It has created solar and wind industries that employ thousands of Pennsylvanians in installing power projects and manufacturing components for wind and solar technologies.
The report notes that for states with renewable standards, the average standard is 20 percent. For Pennsylvania’s renewable energy industries to remain competitive with surrounding states and keep renewable businesses and their employees working here, the Commonwealth should increase its standard. At the very least, the General Assembly should pass Rep. Chris Ross’ House Bill 1580 which would make a minor adjustment to the solar standard to address an oversupply of solar power resulting from the success of the AEPS and other federal and state incentives.
Pennsylvanians clearly understand the need for a comprehensive energy policy that charts a course for the future where renewable energy grows, energy efficiency keeps demand in check, nimble natural gas enhances reliability, nuclear power provides a foundation and the use of dirty coal decreases. Right now, the Corbett administration opposes increasing our supply of renewable energy and is focused only on developing our gas resource.
Pennsylvanians are ready for a broader energy vision. Will we get that vision from this governor?