Friday, October 25, 2019

PA Conservative Energy Forum Urges Senate Republican Policy Committee To Embrace Clean & Renewable Energy

On October 22, the Senate Republican Policy Committee held a workshop on conservative approaches to renewable energy featuring the PA Conservative Energy Forum which urged Republicans to take ownership of clean and renewable energy development.
Chad Forcey, Executive Director of the PA Conservative Energy Forum, said his group supports free enterprise and free markets and getting new, innovative approaches to clean and renewable energy development on the ground.
“That's a message that we spread throughout Pennsylvania, and its promise brings
conservatives to the table to take ownership of technologies that have historically been ceded to the other side of the aisle. 
“We know, as lifelong Republicans who have influenced public policy in Harrisburg for decades, that jobs, economic development and national security depend on energy diversity. So, we are staking our claim.
“Jobs in PA's clean and renewable energy portfolio now stand at more than 90,000. This number is growing at a rate of more than 6 percent per year. 
“New technologies include sources like wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, hydro and electric vehicles that reduce our reliance on imported energy while growing the size and scope of our renewable sector.
“We do not exclude natural gas, nuclear, and clean coal technologies from this conversation. Our newly developed and legacy fuels provide us with bridges to the future, and opportunities to efficiently reuse waste from our industrial past.”
Forcey said the Forum has support the commercial PACE legislation passed last year, Senate Bill 705 (Scavello-R-Monroe) [and House Bill 531 (Kaufer-R-Luzerne) in the House] authorizing community solar programs as well as a newly proposed offshore wind energy project in Lake Erie that could “revolutionize energy production in Pennsylvania and create thousands of jobs.”
Forcey noted, “The Governor recently announced his intent to join RGGI [Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative]. In future months, PennCEF will facilitate critical dialogue between House and Senate leadership, agricultural groups and the business community to create room in the RGGl discussion for business and agricultural input. 
“We believe, as the Senate Republican leaders have stated,that RGGI should support energy diversity in Pennsylvania, keep prices low for ratepayers, uphold "all of the above" on energy, and include input from the House, Senate and Governor. 
“Our outreach efforts will call for a portion of RGGl revenue to be dedicated to actual energy projects, particularly those that are greatly needed on our farms. 
“The Penn State College of Ag Sciences, represented here today, speaks to the important work of renewable energy development on farms throughout Pennsylvania. This program is exhibit A for future RGGl efforts.
“PennCEF will also continue its on-going efforts to support farmers who choose to exercise their Right to Farm, and invest in clean and renewable energy on their land, but are prevented from doing so by local government ordinances and, in some cases, utility red tape. 
“Pennsylvania should allow farmers to fully invest in their land with new energy development, as our farmers' time is short: the dairy crisis and trade barriers are pushing many out of production. 
“Clean and renewable energy on farms creates jobs, keeps land in the family, and eliminates utility bills.
“Conservatives can and should take pride in a full slate of energy technologies that have made Pennsylvania a global leader in energy. 
“We must include renewables in this discussion. 
“Millennials, suburban voters and other groups crucial to the future of the Republican party want to hear more. Let's take ownership of these new technologies, and bring the job-creators from these industries into our fold.”
Leslie Ann Elder, Coalition for Community Solar Access, said, “Today, almost 50 percent of American households and businesses do not have access to solar because they rent, lease, live in multi-tenant buildings, don't have the financial means to invest in residential solar, or have a roof or property that cannot host a solar array. 
“Community solar provides anyone who pays an electric bill access to solar energy without the need to install a solar system on site. It expands access to solar for all, provides energy choice for customers and diversifies our energy generation sources with home grown energy. 
“This ultimately builds a strong, distributed, and more resilient electric grid.”
She noted two pending bills would authorize community solar-- Senate Bill 705 (Scavello-R-Monroe) and House Bill 531 (Kaufer-R-Luzerne) in the House.
Elder said it is estimated that if 500 MW of community solar energy generation was installed, it would have a local economic benefit of $706.4 million.
Click Here for a copy of Elder’s written testimony.
Henry McKay, Program Director for Solar United Neighbors, also support the community solar generation bills, adding there is a potential benefit for Pennsylvania’s struggling farmers who can opt to have a large installation on their land to bring in additional income.
McKay also noted the state Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards needs to be updated to take full advantage of community solar opportunities, pointing to Senate Bill 600 (Haywood-D- Philadelphia, Killion-R-Delaware) as one legislative proposal.
Click Here for a copy of McKay’s written testimony.
Edward Johnstonbaugh, Penn State Extension - Energy Savings & Renewables, said innovative technology has made renewable energy sources a household name in Pennsylvania and Penn State is fully committed to developing modern energy technologies.
He noted Penn State is now in the process of meeting 25 percent of the University’s annual electrical requirements through a solar energy facility being built in Franklin County.
“The future for sustainably managed renewable energy technology in Pennsylvania has never been, from my perspective, brighter,” said Johnstonbaugh.  “I encourage the Committee to dig deep into the opportunities presented and adopt policies that enable environmentally sound improvements, support the growth of rural communities and business, that make smart economic sense.”
Click Here for a copy of Johnstonbaugh’s written testimony.
Brent Alderfer, Community Energy, Inc., said, “Advances in solar generation in the last five years now make solar generation the number-one energy jobs opportunity, delivering both energy savings and increased tax revenues from significant capital investment in the state.”
He noted the cost of solar energy generation has dropped by 70 percent since 2010.
“Most important from an economic development point of view even after achieving those efficiencies and significant cost reduction solar still produces more jobs per unit of electricity than any other source of generation--by a wide margin.” Alderfer added. 
“The best way to use markets to deliver the solar price savings for consumers is to use competitive bidding for long-term solar energy purchases to drive down the price of solar and begin building in Pennsylvania now and over the next five-years, while federal tax credits and favorable interest rates are still available,” Alderfer explained.
He pointed in particular to the benefits for farmers, saying, “A solar project pays farmers annual income at 3 to 5 times the income from farming, guaranteed for twenty-five years, and the land stays in the family.”
He also said there were local tax revenue benefits to solar projects on farms.
“[The] Pennsylvania Clean-and-Green Program abates local taxes for farmland to improve the economics of farm ownership and preserve farmland. It also reduces local tax revenues. A recent analysis estimated the loss of tax revenues for just two counties to be $30.2 million annually,” he said.
“Solar investment turns those numbers completely around. In addition to increased payments to farmers, solar investment in PA, rather than abating local tax revenues, increases local tax revenues by $228 million.”
Click Here for a copy of Alderfer’s written testimony.
Josiah Neeley, R Street Institute, testified that his organization focuses on environmental goals through free market means. He said energy discussions have been polarized even though energy sources are nonpartisan. 
He added that energy revolutions have occurred with natural gas and renewable energy in recent decades, saying that unsubsidized solar and wind costs are now in the range of coal electricity costs.
Neeley, citing RGGI [Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative], said pricing is a good means for reducing emissions, but that coal use in Pennsylvania has already been decreasing without the program. 
He recommended the $350 to $400 million a year that could be generated through a program like RGGI should go back to taxpayers in some form.
Jaret Gibbons, Executive Director of the Appalachian Region Independent Power Producers, noted the coal refuse-fired power generating industry has used waste coal refuse for energy and worked to restore land and limit toxic water runoff.
He said despite some funding from Pennsylvania, the marketplace for energy production has changed and coal refuse has struggled in recent years. In the past, coal refuse would produce 11 to 12 million tons of refuse, but now, the numbers are set to fall below 8 million in the coming year.
Gibbons noted coal refuse facilities are not present in other RGGI states, so Pennsylvania’s would be in “uncharted territory.” He said coal refuse should be considered in the RGGI process as it cleans up the environmental impact of coal mines, but the industry is in need of further support from the government.
Additional written testimony was submitted to the Committee by Dr. John Lehman, former Secretary of the U.S. Navy and the PA Farm Bureau.
Sen. David Argall (R-Schuylkill) serves as Chair of the Committee.
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[Posted: October 25, 2019]

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