Soaring Fuel Prices May Spur The Keystone State To Finally Fast-Track Renewable Energy Projects

State Economy

The population of the “Keystone State,” Pennsylvania is approximately 13.06 million people[1]. Pennsylvania is the 5th most populated state in the United States.

In 2021, Pennsylvania’s economy was ranked 6th in the United States in gross domestic product (GDP)[2]. The state’s economy is dependent on the manufacturing, natural gas, coal, chemical, agriculture, food processing, pharmaceutical, and tourism industries[3].

Environment Policies

In 2004. Pennsylvania enacted the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard, which mandates all retail electric suppliers sell at least 18% of their power from renewable energy by 2020-2021[4].

In June 2022, utilities[5] used natural gas (58.2 %), nuclear energy (33.0 %), coal (5.8 %), and renewable energy (3.0 %) to generate electricity in Pennsylvania. Wind, hydropower, biomass, and solar are the primary types of renewable energy used to generate electricity in Pennsylvania.

In June 2022, the average cost of residential electricity in Pennsylvania was 16.51¢ per kWh, compared to the national average of 15.42¢ per kWh.

Recent renewable energy developments in Pennsylvania include:

  • 191 MW Solar Projects – In March 2021, Governor Tom Wolf announced that photovoltaic solar arrays will be installed in seven state government buildings. The solar projects are scheduled to be commissioned by year-end 2022.
  • 127 MW Solar Project – In July 2022, Maryland power company, Competitive Power Ventures commissioned the Maple Hill solar project at a site approximately 70 miles northwest of the city of Philadelphia.
  • 20 MW Solar Project – Australian infrastructure company, Lendlease Energy Development is continuing work on the Gaucho solar project at site approximately 5 miles west of the city of Pittsburg. The project is scheduled to be commissioned by year-end 2022.

Conclusions

Coal was first commercially mined in Pennsylvania [6] in 1792. In 2020, 36.3 tons of anthracite and bituminous coal was produced from 134 mines in Pennsylvania[7].

In 2010, 49.4% of Pennsylvania’s electricity was generated from coal-fueled power plants[8]. In June 2022, only 5.8% of the state’s electricity was generated from coal-fueled power plants. Why the decrease ?

  1. Pollution – Coal ash, the product of coal burned in a power plant contains arsenic, mercury, and lead; which are toxic. In 2019, coal ash was documented to have leaked into the ground water around 241 coal-fired plants in America[9].
  2. EconomicsThe cost to generate power from coal is more than double the cost to generate power from renewables, like solar.
  3. Climate Change Coal generates 40% to 45% more greenhouse gases than natural gas.

Pennsylvania’s policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions can be characterized as follows:

  • The GoodState electric utilities have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by moving from coal-fueled power plants to natural-fueled power plants. Coal-fueled power plants produce 40% to 45% more CO2 than natural gas fueled power plants.
  • The BadPennsylvania utilities have failed to meet the state’s mandated Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard requiring all retail electric suppliers to sell at least 18% of their power from renewable energy by 2020-2021.
  • The Ugly The lack of new renewable energy projects is due in part due to communities[10][11] across the state blocking the development of new wind and/or solar projects based on false information.

In 2020, Pennsylvania was 2nd only to Texas in natural gas production[12]. Pennsylvania’s annual natural gas production is approximately 20% of the entire United States annual natural gas production.

On 24 February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine, resulting in the United States, Canada, and the European Union placing embargos on Russian exports. The international price for crude oil and natural gas has increased by over 50% from May 2021 to May 2022.

The United States is now increasing shipments of liquified natural gas to Europe to offset the loss of Russian natural gas exports. Demand for natural gas from Europe will almost certainly cause the price of domestic natural gas in the United States to increase.

Soaring fuel prices may finally spur the Keystone State to accelerate the move from natural gas to low-cost, reliable renewable energy for power.

Jack Kerfoot

Website – “Our Energy Conundrum”

www.jackkerfoot.com

 

Jack Kerfoot is a scientist, energy expert, and author of the book FUELING AMERICA, An Insider’s Journey and articles for The Hill, one of the largest independent political news sites in the United States. He has been interviewed on over 100 radio and television stations from New York City to Los Angeles on numerous energy related topics.

 

[1] Pennsylvania Population 2022, World Population Review

[2] U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis

[3] Biggest Industries in Pennsylvania  – World Atlas

[4] National Conference of State Legislators – State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals, January 4, 2021

[5] U.S. Energy Information Agency – Pennsylvania State Profile and Energy Estimates, www.eia.gov

[6] History of Anthracite Coal MiningMine Safety & Health Administration, US Dept. of Labor, January 23, 2016.

[7] U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2020, October 2021

[8] U.S. Energy Information Agency, Pennsylvania Electric Power Consumption Estimates 1960 – 2018

[9] Reuters, “Coal Ash Contaminates Groundwater Near Most U.S. Coal Plants: Study” by Valerie Volcovici, 3/3/2019

[10]Pennsylvania Is On The Cusp Of A Solar Energy Boom. Some Communities Want To Fight It” by Rachel McDevitt, 12/23/2020

[11]A Surge, Then A Fade For Pennsylvania’s Wind Industry” by Amy Sisk, 1/12/2018

[12] .S. Energy Information Agency – Pennsylvania State Profile and Energy Estimates, www.eia.gov

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