Eight percent is not enough according to State Senator Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery). He’s referring to a 2004 state law that requires power-generating utilities in Pennsylvania to have at least eight percent of their output from renewable sources—hydro, solar, wind, and geothermal—by 2021.
“It (eight percent) was not ambitious but it was reasonable in 2004,” says Leach. “But time, technology and other states have passed us by.”
According to Leach, many other states are in the 20 to 30 percent range but Maine is the highest at 40 percent, followed by California at 33 percent, New York 29, and New Jersey 22. “We need to significantly up our required percentage of renewable energies” Leach said.
So Leach and State Representative Greg Vitali (D-Delaware) Tuesday unveiled legislation that would amend the state’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards. SB1171 would increase the minimum overall amount of renewable energy produced in the commonwealth to 15 percent by 2023, and triple the amount of solar energy.
Of the states that have renewable energy mandates, Pennsylvania currently has the lowest requirement and even amending the current law would set the commonwealth’s percentage at the third lowest.
“I would be even more ambitious if we had a different political climate,” Leach says, “but I understand getting something doable done is more important than just introducing a bill. There’s no rational reason to oppose this; this stimulates the economy as well as protects the economy, and hopefully we’ll be able to get it passed.”
He says a lot of Pennsylvania’s old economic base “is gone, it’s not coming back in many cases.”
“So we need to have an economic future and the only way that happens is if we first imagine it, then invest in it and pass policies that encourage that,” Leach says. “Our future, I think, is green technology. Pennsylvania could be a leader in the production, manufacture, installation of green technology, but we’ve got to start producing it, and having the lowest standards in the country in terms of renewable energy for our energy industry is not the way to do that.”
The way to do that according to Leach is incremental improvements and the 15 percent requirement is “easily achievable.”
“The technologies have improved so much in the last ten years that all of these things are cheaper and more efficient. So if we just increase the installation of solar energy, build some more wind turbines, you know that sort of thing, we will easily make our goals.”
According to the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission, hydroelectric accounts for 5 percent of the total electricity generated in Pennsylvania; wind—3 percent and solar—0.4 percent. Coal-fired plants produce 34 percent of the commonwealth’s electricity.