A state powered 100% by renewables, by 2050

A state powered 100% by renewables, by 2050. That’s the goal of a bill proposed by my state representative Chris Rabb last November. Since then, it has become a real bill in the PA House (see HB-2132) and Senate (see SB-1140), with over 63 bipartisan co-sponsors.

We reviewed this bill and zoomed into their definition of renewable energy. Thankfully, there’s no reference to fracked gas. Amazingly, thankfully, there’s no reference to nuclear. Also thankfully, the definition of greenhouse gas includes methane.

image credit: The Solutions Project infographic for PA

What’s the bill do? This bill sets interim milestones. It also asks for the establishment of

  • The Clean Energy Transition Task Force, to integrate the goal of 100% renewable energt through-out state government operations;
  • The Clean Energy Center of Excellence, to conduct and sponsor research on renewable energy & energy efficiency technologies, best practices for their adoption, barriers to their adoption at a state college;
  • The Council for Clean Energy Workforce Development, to identify employment potential of the energy efficiency and clean energy industry.

Basically, this bill should get us all to row together, to show our intent that our goal must be that of a civilization powered by renewables. We all know that fossil fuels need to be kept in the ground, to solve the climate situation we’ve got ourselves into.

The specific interim milestones listed on this bill are quite impressive, summarized below:

  • by 2030, statewide use of non renewable energy, across all sectors (electricity, heating, transportation), should be down to 50%.
  • by 2040, statewide use of non renewable energy, across all sectors, should be down to 20%.
  • by 2050, statewide use of non renewable energy, across all sectors, should be down to 0%.
  • Also, by 2035, all state gov’t operations should be powered by 100% renewable energy
  • And the DEP to develop policy so that…by 2030, all new buildings should be zero net energy. And all existing buildings use 50% less non-renewable energy.

So much better than our current goals, which is that by 2021, 8% of our electricity would be from renewables.

Much media attention has already been received…

This bill has the endorsement of 150 civic leaders and organizations within Pennsylvania, and recently, 350 Philly has been asked to endorse it as well.

Our goal has long been to get emissions down to 350 parts per million (ppm), currently at 410 ppm. Realizing that we all need something to rally around, we endorse the bill as well, with a few reservations which are listed below:

  • Physics demands a rapid transition away from fossil fuels; that we reduce our emissions sooner rather than later this century. We would therefore support a much faster timeline.
  • One key concern is that this bill does not track emissions. If we focus solely on ramping up renewables, it’s likely that carbon-free nuclear electricity will be replaced with electricity from fracked gas and / or large scale solar arrays. In either case, this would be worse for the global climate since emissions remain at the current levels or worse, increase. It’s imperative that future revisions of this bill include tracking emissions, to ensure that we reduce our emissions whilst ramping up the use of renewables.
  • Another concern is that because the bill doesn’t regulate emissions, it’s not including emissions from two sizeable sectors: industry & waste processing.  An example is emissions from cement manufacturing.
  • The bill lists various agencies that would participate in our transition to renewable energy, but we saw no reference to the public. We are the stakeholders here. Future revisions of this bill would need to include stronger public participation, otherwise the onus for implementation is in the same old hands.

Many groups are planning a lobby day, a day when we visit our legislators in Harrisburg, and lobby for what we’d like. In this case, a state powered 100% by renewables, by 2050.

The lobby day is Tuesday June 12th 2018, with free buses leaving Southeast Pennsylvania early that morning, from Philadelphia, King of Prussia, and Bucks County. The day as well as the transportation is organized by PennEnvironment, see details here. Make a day of it, and let your State Representatives & Senators know that climate is our most pressing issue, and that we advocate for a state powered by 100% renewable energy.

Can’t make it? Lookup your PA legislators here, and ask them to co-sponsor HB-2132 and SB-1140.


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