Pennsylvania should be doing more to address climate change, a panel of experts told the House Democratic Policy Committee Monday during a hearing organized by Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware), Minority Chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.
"State renewable portfolio standards are the most effective tools for reducing carbon," said Bruce Burcat, executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Renewable Energy Coalition.
Burcat said his organization supports House Bill 100 (Vitali-D-Delaware).
House Bill 100 would amend the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act by requiring Pennsylvania electric companies to obtain 15 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2023. The AEPS now requires electric companies to purchase 8 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2021.
According to the 2009 Pennsylvania's Climate Action plan, emissions associated with electric companies are projected to be the largest future contributor to greenhouse gasses.
However, the 2013 Plan Update to be considered Friday by DEP’s Climate Change Advisory Committee notes there have been significant changes to Pennsylvania’s greenhouse gas emissions since the base year of 2000 used in the Plan resulting in the estimate that overall climate changing emissions from the Commonwealth will be lower in 2020 than in the base year.
The reduction in the use of coal for power generation and the switch to natural gas alone will result in emissions savings of about 12 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually.
The draft Plan concludes: “Pennsylvania CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions have fallen dramatically, in large part because Pennsylvania is generating more electricity with natural gas instead of coal. However, other factors, including improved energy efficiency standards from consumer products and automobiles have contributed to the decline in carbon emissions. Pennsylvania continues to be a leader in reducing methane emission from the natural gas industry and solid waste landfills. Moreover, further reductions are occurring, and future reductions will occur, through new regulatory requirements like the Tailoring Rule, NSPS, and MACT (new air quality regulations).”
Richard Alley, professor of climatology at Penn State University, said greenhouse gases have caused temperatures across the globe have risen by one degree. He said if temperatures continue to rise, it will be more difficult to grow crops; there will be more floods and droughts and stronger storms, and sea levels will continue to rise.
Delaware Valley Green Buildings Council Policy and Advisory Coordinator Holly Shields said more energy efficient buildings also could help combat climate change.
"DVGBC recommends that the legislature institute an energy benchmarking policy for state-owned or leased buildings over a certain size to enable the performance of those buildings to be compared to others nationally and to encourage private building owners to follow suit," Shields said.
Shields also said her organization supports House Bill 34 (Harper-R-Montgomery), which would require the Department of General Services to adopt high-performance building standards.
The state could encourage the expansion of renewable energy and energy conservation through "Green Banks," which help finance projects, said Thomas D. Peterson, president of The Center for Climate Change. He noted that New York is forming the $1 billion New York Green Bank.
Alley said the state should act soon."We can beat climate change, but the longer we wait the higher the cost and the more difficult it will be to address," Alley said.