‘A clean energy laggard:' Pa. ranks 50th in U.S. for renewable energy growth
- PennEvironment on Wednesday released "Renewables on the Rise 2023" online dashboard
- The online dashboard shows how Pennsylvania ranks compared to other states and the District of Columbia in renewable energy growth
- Pennsylvania ranked 50th in the nation
BETHLEHEM, Pa. — The commonwealth is trailing the rest of the country when it comes to growing renewable energy.
“Pennsylvania ranks the abysmal 50th in the nation for the percent growth in total solar, wind and geothermal generation since 2013,” said Ellie Kerns, a climate and clean energy associate, PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center. “Out of the nation's top 50 states and the District of Columbia, only Alaska ranked worse than Pennsylvania for renewable energy growth.”
PennEnvironment on Wednesday unveiled “Renewables on the Rise 2023,” an online interactive dashboard that ranks all states for the production of wind energy, solar power, energy storage and other renewable energy metrics over the last decade. While the rankings painted a stark picture of the commonwealth’s struggles, officials said it’s not only time to catch up, but to strive to become a leader in renewable energy.
“Scientists are clear — to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we need to get to 100% renewable energy by 2050 at the latest,” Kerns said. “But in the last 10 years, we only brought online enough renewables to power less than 2% of Pennsylvania's homes and continue to purchase just 3% of our electricity from renewable sources.
“The math doesn't add up. At our current rate, we will fall behind a nation powered by clean energy missing out on critical climate and economic opportunities. It's time for Pennsylvania to move from being a clean energy laggard to being a clean energy leader.”Ellie Kerns, a climate and clean energy associate, PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center
“The math doesn't add up,” she continued. “At our current rate, we will fall behind a nation powered by clean energy missing out on critical climate and economic opportunities. It's time for Pennsylvania to move from being a clean energy laggard to being a clean energy leader.”
The dashboard’s data is from the Federal Energy Information Administration, which only looks at state-level renewables. Specific data for the Lehigh Valley was not available.
‘We are leaving money on the table’
There’s federal funding available to grow clean energy across the state, said state Rep. Danielle Friel-Otten, D-Chester County. It’s just not being used.
“I had the opportunity to spend some time in Indianapolis this summer at the National caucus of environmental legislators where we spent time discussing energy policy, environmental policy with lawmakers from across the United States,” she said. “And it became very clear to me within the first few hours that we are leaving money on the table.”
Commonwealth leaders should take advantage of funding through the Inflation Reduction Act, she argued. Signed into law by President Joe Biden last year, included $27 billion in grants for clean energy and climate projects.
A self-proclaimed “tree-hugger from day one,” state Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Philadelphia County, said the technology already exists to increase renewable energy across the state — it’s politics that’s holding the commonwealth back.
“In my work on energy policy, I got confirmation from scientists in the Trump administration’s Department of Energy, who said that we could get to 90% with no new technology right now, that we have the capacity to do it,” he said. “So, this is more of a political will than anything else.”
And making the switch to renewables doesn’t only benefit the environment, but residents, too.
“There are so many upsides of doing the right thing beyond saving the planet,” Rabb said. “In terms of green jobs, union jobs, in terms of reducing comorbidity and environmental racism – There's so many things that can come from investing in this type of approach to transition Pennsylvania to 100% renewable energy.”
Other speakers included state Rep. Joe Webster, D-Montgomery County, and state Sen. Carolyn Comitta, D-Chester County.
‘An achievable reality’
The Renewables on the Rise dashboard breaks down the commonwealth’s ranking in each renewable energy sector.
Looking at data from the last decade in each sector’s growth, the state ranked 27th for wind generation, 30th for solar generation and 50th for energy savings. However, electric vehicle sales, as well as available charging ports gave Pennsylvania higher rankings, 10th and 11th, respectively.
Other states are growing their clean energy, but, “not so much” in Pennsylvania, said Elowyn Corby, mid-Atlantic regional director of Vote Solar, a national nonprofit that advocates for clean energy.
“Clean energy … is the least expensive energy being added to the grid – far more affordable than coal or fracked gas,” Corby said. “And renewable energy, especially paired with energy storage, saves money, creates jobs and keeps our air clean.
“In Pennsylvania, the public is with us.”
Corby cited a 2022 poll, which found 81% of commonwealth residents support rooftop solar.
“Pennsylvania has always been the engine powering our country's energy system and we can choose to lead again,” she said. “A 100% clean energy future is now an achievable reality.”
The dashboard, Kerns said, acts as “a timely reminder that we have an immense, largely untapped opportunity when it comes to clean energy here in Pennsylvania.”
“It is time to make use of these opportunities before us, and change our story,” she said. “Make Pennsylvania not just an energy state, but a renewable energy state for decades to come.”