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Environmentalists are fighting for Peco to increase its use of green energy, but the oil industry calls it a job killer

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Source: Pixabay/CC0 public domain

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The country is in the midst of a controversial transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

It’s a change either praised by environmentalists for solving climate change and public health, or hated by the oil and gas industry for killing jobs and making it less reliable, efficient and affordable. It is still unclear what the increase in the share of energy from renewable sources will mean for consumers’ pockets.

The latest battle has played out before the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission, which every four years must approve Peco’s power orders, or default service plan, in which the utility explains how it intends to buy electricity.

Peco’s current DSP expires in May next year.

PUK interrogations

In February, Peco submitted its 1,235-page procurement plan to regulators, essentially promising to do what it has been doing: get the cheapest electricity supply and buy 8% of its power from renewable sources, including 0.5% of solar power generated by State.

“Peco is not proposing any changes to the ordering process used in the previous default service program,” according to documents filed by the company. It’s a move the company says protects against price volatility.

In late April, the PUC held two days of hearings in the DSP Peco case. Approximately 80 people testified, including members of Energy Justice Advocates (EJA), a group consisting of POWER Interfaith, Vote Solar, Clean Air Council, Sierra Club, Physicians for Social Responsibility and PennEnvironment.

“In my opinion, these criteria are insufficient and outdated. “Equally important, although missing from PECO’s list of criteria, are the safety and health of Pennsylvanians, as well as the urgent need to address our climate crisis,” testified Lansdowne’s Peco client Howard Sherman.

“For every hundred dollars PECO spends on energy, it plans to spend 50 cents on solar energy.”

“For every hundred dollars that Peco spends on energy, he plans to spend 50 cents on solar energy,” Wendy Greenspan, co-founder of the POWER Interfaith People’s Energy Plan Campaign Group, said during the hearing.

“That’s what Peco did in its last DSP four years ago. This is what I plan to do at this DSP for the next four years.”

Dueling points of view

According to the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission’s Climate Action Plan, energy used in residential buildings in the Philadelphia area for everyday uses – heating, cooling, cooking and electricity – accounts for about 19% of greenhouse gas emissions. The plan warned that “significant action is needed in the residential building sector to implement energy efficiency, electrification and clean energy measures.”

EJA says it wants Peco to take a more leading role in promoting renewable energy sources, starting with the basket of energy supplies that Peco plans to purchase, which is produced almost entirely by burning fossil fuels.

“Why isn’t Peco switching to renewable energy?” he asked Greenspan. “Many utilities across the country have this. Why is Peco digging in its heels and opposing the use of renewable energy?”

In response, a Peco spokesperson said: “Our filing is intended to comply with Pennsylvania laws and regulations that require us to purchase electricity at the lowest cost within a specified period of time by judiciously combining power purchases to ensure adequate and reliable service, as well as how stable pricing These rules and regulations are designed to protect customers, including our low- and moderate-income customers, from paying higher prices for their energy use.

“If this decision threatens Pennsylvania energy jobs, we will urge the Biden administration to reverse this decision.”

Oil and gas industry experts say the state is phasing out fossil fuel generation too quickly before options are available to replace them, causing job losses and threatening the resilience and reliability of the grid as demand for electricity grows.

When the Biden administration temporarily paused new liquefied natural gas export permits, both Democratic U.S. senators, Bob Casey and John Fetterman, issued a joint statement: “If this decision threatens Pennsylvania energy jobs, we will pressure the Biden administration to reverse this decision.”

Sunrise

Pennsylvania, a fossil fuel powerhouse, is trailing other states in new renewable energy. No state has grown slower over the past decade, according to PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center’s “Renewables on the Rise 2023” report.

“Pennsylvania ranks just 50th in the nation in percentage growth in total solar, wind and geothermal generation since 2013.” – stated in the report. It further explained: “Pennsylvania has tripled its solar energy production over the past decade – most of that increase has occurred since 2019. However, in contrast, the United States has seen a 12-fold increase in solar energy production, and the leading state, Texas, has built a whopping 90 times more renewable energy than in Pennsylvania.”

“Texas produced as much as 90 times more renewable energy than Pennsylvania.”

Renewable energy sources on the rise in 2023

However, the move to solar energy is growing, especially among large users.

The city, which owns about 600 buildings, recently announced a deal to purchase solar power from Energix Renewables, which will cover about a quarter of its needs.

Swarthmore and Haverford Colleges and the University of Pennsylvania also announced that they will purchase all electricity generated by solar installations.

“Peco presented the commission and its customers with a choice of four more years of wasted opportunity,” testified Karl R. Rábago of Colorabo-based Rábago Energy LLC. Rábago accused Peco of being short-sighted and focusing on generating the lowest prices rather than addressing the long-term impacts of climate change.

POWER Interfaith continues to sponsor public events, such as the trivia contest, held in front of City Hall on Wednesday, April 8, to educate the public in anticipation of the PUC’s final decision on the Peco plan by October.