Saturday, December 26, 2020

Op-Ed: PA Needs More Jobs, RGGI Will Create Them By Investing In Energy Efficiency

This op-ed was first published on PA December 23, 2020--

Earlier this month, hundreds of Pennsylvania businesses, nonprofits, and residents spoke at hearings hosted by the Department of Environmental Protection. [Read more here.]

The purpose of this collaborative process is to shape the rules of Pennsylvania’s entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI. Joining RGGI gives Pennsylvania a chance to create jobs and grow its economy by investing proceeds from carbon allowance auctions. [Read more here.]

Per year, RGGI is anticipated to create 27,000 jobs and pour $300 million into Pennsylvania’s economy.

This opportunity arrives not a moment too soon. 

Pennsylvania’s pandemic recession numbers are bleak: the state government faces a nearly $5 billion shortfall over two years, and 453,000 payroll jobs will be lost this year in the Commonwealth. 

Leadership should do everything in its power to swiftly and sustainably rebuild the economy.

RGGI has earned a track record of economic success, lowering energy costs and boosting the economies of its ten participating states, where GDP has outpaced growth in the rest of the country by 31 percent. 

These states have invested over half their RGGI proceeds into energy efficiency, generating over $4 billion in economic benefits – in the form of new jobs, customer utility bill savings, and public-private investment.

RGGI has enormous potential in Pennsylvania, which is a major energy powerhouse. 

Under RGGI rules, qualifying power plants must purchase allowances at auction in order to emit carbon. The proceeds generated at auction are then poured into the state economy. 

This means that the market determines the price on carbon and rewards the most efficient means to achieve reductions, which in turn drives investment and spurs innovation in cleaner technologies.

With the right investments, an immediate benefit of RGGI will go to Pennsylvania’s families, who could get a much-needed break on their electric bills. 

Electricity wholesale prices dropped by 5.7 percent in RGGI states, even as the rest of the country saw increases of 8.6 percent. 

Investments in RGGI states have helped save consumers more than a billion dollars on their energy bills.

RGGI also offers Pennsylvania the chance to maneuver one of its most reliable job-creating industries into a position of rapid and sustainable growth: energy efficiency. 

While the pandemic and related lockdowns caused enormous job losses, energy efficiency is the largest US energy sector, boasting a growth rate 1.7 times faster than the national workforce from 2016-2019.

Joining RGGI will propel Pennsylvania further along its transition to a clean energy economy, requiring a larger workforce to ensure RGGI programs are implemented and available statewide. 

Energy efficiency workers will be in increasing demand to build, install, monitor, repair, and improve equipment. These jobs are by definition local to their communities, and offer a higher-than-average salary.

Energy efficiency jobs can also provide a reliable career path for workers transitioning away from other energy sectors. 

Auction proceeds can provide workforce transition funding to help workers join the energy efficiency and clean energy workforce. 

As coal generation naturally declines, Pennsylvania’s leadership should do everything possible to help its traditional energy workers find employment in forward-looking growth sectors. 

RGGI will provide the push, framework, and funds to transition the workforce to one of clean generation.

The effects of energy efficiency investment from RGGI will ripple out across communities: families with lower utility bills can spend more on local goods and services, and businesses that spend less on energy can spend more on payroll or capital investment. 

In this way, energy efficiency investments are a win-win-win that will ensure that RGGI delivers not only less pollution, but more jobs, more savings, and a stronger economy for Pennsylvania.

[Visit DEP’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative webpage to learn more about the proposal.  Public comments on the proposal are due January 14. Read more here.]

Erin Cosgrove is the Director of Regulatory Affairs for the Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance (KEEA), an energy efficiency trade association. KEEA’s membership, comprised of seventy-five companies, ranges from small local firms to large multinational corporations and operates across the value chain of energy efficiency.

Related Articles - RGGI:

-- Clean Power PA Coalition: 95% Of Commenters At EQB Hearing On Proposed Power Plant Carbon Pollution Reduction Regulation Hearings Supported The Proposal

-- Sen. Costa Introduces Bill To Reduce Carbon Pollution From Power Plants, Protect Communities, Workers Already Affected By Changing Energy Economy

-- Report: Clean Energy Is A Leading Creator Of New Quality Jobs In Pennsylvania

-- DEP Senate Budget Hearing: Coal-Fired Power Plants Are Closing Without RGGI, We Have To Confront This Issue, Help Workers, Communities

Related Articles This Week - Climate:

-- PA Will Experience 42% More Days Of Extremely Heavy Precipitation By 2050 Due To Climate Change

-- Op-Ed: Keep Pennsylvania’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative On Track - Rep. Greg Vitali 

-- Op-Ed: DEP Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Is Not About Climate Change - Sen. Langerholc & Rep. Rigby

-- 3 States, D.C Sign On To Regional Transportation Climate Initiative: PA Does Not Sign, But Commits To Individual Actions To Reduce Climate Changing Emissions From Transportation 

[Posted: December 26, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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