Pennsylvania Lagging in Renewable Energy Race

Media Contacts
Ellie Kerns

Climate Field Organizer, PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center

David Masur

Executive Director, PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center

Harrisburg, PA – Pennsylvania ranks a lowly 50th in the nation for percent growth in total solar, wind and geothermal generation since 2013, according to a new study released today by the PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center. Out of the nation’s 50 states and the District of Columbia, only Alaska ranked worse than Pennsylvania for renewable energy growth for the 10-year timeframe in question.

“Ranking near the bottom of the barrel for renewable energy production in the U.S. should raise red flags for our politicians in Harrisburg and the people of Pennsylvania,” said Ellie Kerns, Climate and Clean Energy Associate with PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center. “Pennsylvania should be a leader – not a laggard – in the clean energy economy.”

The study, Renewables on the Rise 2023, documents the growth of six key clean energy technologies in states over the past decade: solar power, wind power, battery storage, energy efficiency, electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging stations. 

Renewables are rising in Pennsylvania, but clean energy in the Keystone State is growing at a much slower rate than other states. In the last decade, Pennsylvania has tripled solar production – most of this growth coming since 2019 – and seen a nominal increase in wind power. In contrast, the U.S. saw a 12-fold growth in solar power and more than doubling in wind production. In the same time period, the leading state, Texas, built out 90 TIMES as much renewable power as Pennsylvania.

Since 2013, Pennsylvania ranks a lowly 50th in change in energy savings as well, with only Ohio ranking worse. Pennsylvania’s energy efficiency programs have faltered to the point where they are only saving a third of the energy they did a decade ago in 2013.

“Currently 11 states have committed to, and are growing towards, 100% clean energy goals. Scientists are clear – to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis, we need to get to 100% renewable energy by 2050 at the latest,” said Kerns. “But in the last 10 years, we only brought online enough renewables to power less than 2% of Pennsylvania’s homes and continue to purchase just 3% of our electricity from renewable sources. The math doesn’t add up. At our current rate, we will fall behind a nation powered by clean energy – missing out on critical climate and economic opportunities.”

One positive sign was Pennsylvania’s positioning for growth in electric vehicle sales and electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Over the last decade, the Keystone State ranked 10th in additional EVs sold and 11th in EV chargers added.

“As a major energy-producing state, Pennsylvania is uniquely positioned to lead the nation into a renewable energy future. Unfortunately, we continue to lag behind in developing renewables and taking full advantage of the environmental, economic, consumer-savings and public health benefits that come with them,” said State Senator Carolyn Comitta. “But it’s not too late. We have opportunities to invest in the clean energy economy and embrace energy efficiency strategies and we must take action.”

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a red state like Texas or Florida, a blue state like New Jersey, or a purple state like Michigan – Pennsylvania is disappointingly lagging behind nearly all of them when it comes to bringing new renewable energy online and tapping into the clean energy economy. But it doesn’t have to be this way,” said Kerns. “The remarkable gains we’ve seen from coast to coast – and right here in Pennsylvania in EV charging ports and EV sales – should give Pennsylvanians the confidence we need to build on nationwide momentum and catch up with our neighbors.” 

“As a new member of the PA House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, I recognize what renewable energy can do to grow our economy and the job market in the commonwealth,” said State Representative Joe Webster. “To lessen the impact of climate change on our waterways, soil, air, and infrastructure should and can be a bipartisan goal.”

A number of bills have stalled in the state legislature that could help Pennsylvania increase its renewable energy production. This includes legislation aimed at improving energy efficiency, HB 1615 and SB 755, increasing requirements for renewable energy production, and commiting to a 100% renewable energy future. If Pennsylvania remains in RGGI, it would likely also give the state more tools to rise up in the rankings and change Pennsylvania’s renewable energy story.

At the same time, the Inflation Reduction Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden last summer, continues federal tax credits for renewable energy, like wind and solar. It also provides rebates for home efficiency upgrades and the purchase of heat pumps, electric induction stoves and other efficient electric appliances and equipment, and provides tax incentives to encourage the purchase of electric vehicles by individuals and businesses.

“We have work to do in Pennsylvania to move our commonwealth toward a clean-energy future,” said State Representative Danielle Friel Otten. “Right now, we are leaving money on the table. The good news is that Pennsylvania has enormous potential to be a leader in clean energy production. It’s time for the legislature to re-up our commitment to growing renewable energy; adopt new, expanded, alternative energy targets; and do all we can to ensure that our commonwealth is well-positioned to take advantage of federal funding opportunities.”

“Energy infrastructure is as important as transportation infrastructure in a state, and Pennsylvania has fallen behind nationally in its energy transition,” said Doug Neidich, CEO of GreenWorks Development. “If not corrected, that will continue to make the state less competitive in attracting new business.”

“Solar energy saves us money on utility bills, creates jobs, and keeps our air clean – making it a slam dunk for our state,” said Elowyn Corby, Mid-Atlantic Regional Director with national clean energy nonprofit Vote Solar. “According to our 2022 polling, more than 8 out of 10 Pennsylvanians support rooftop solar. A 100% clean energy future is now an achievable reality thanks to technological advances, the plummeting cost of solar, and overwhelming public support.”

“This report offers a timely reminder that it’s critical for Governor Shapiro and the state legislature to make Pennsylvania a leader–not a laggard–in the renewable energy economy,” Kerns said. “For legislators who want to solve climate change, or for legislators who only care about economic growth, missing the opportunity to tap into the clean energy economy is a disservice to our planet and a disservice to the people of Pennsylvania.”


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