Pennsylvania announces actions to combat climate change
News in late April sent a clear message that Pennsylvania is serious about climate change. Governor Tom Wolf announced plans to become the 24th state to join the U.S. Climate Alliance. The Alliance supports clean energy development and the Paris Agreement goal of reducing 2005 level greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 26-28 percent by 2025.
The Governor’s announcement also included the release of the 2018 Climate Action Plan.
The Pennsylvania Climate Change Act of 2008 requires the Department of Environmental Protection to develop annual GHG inventories, maintain a Climate Change Advisory Committee, have a voluntary GHG emissions registry, and provide an updated Climate Change Action Plan every three years.
The Governor previously issued Executive Order 2019-01. This order set ambitious goals to achieve a 26 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 and an 80 percent reduction by 2050, from 2005 levels.
Highlights of the Plan
The plan identifies over 100 actions within 19 strategies to reduce GHG emissions. Energy conservation and efficiency, sustainable transportation, and clean electricity generation are the low hanging fruit.
The following chart shows the modeling results of 15 related actions considered the most impactful.
If these actions are started now, the plan predicts that they will result in a 21 percent decrease in 2025 and a 36 percent decrease in 2050. As this falls short of the goals specified in the Executive Order, additional actions will be necessary.
The Plan recognizes the importance of maintaining current nuclear generation levels. Pennsylvania’s five nuclear plants account for 93% of Pennsylvania’s carbon-free electric generation — far above wind, solar and hydro.
But policy is needed to value these zero-emission sources of baseload electricity. Two of these plants, Three Mile Island and Beaver Valley, are not currently competitive in the wholesale market. Without subsidies, these plants are expected to close in 2019 and 2021. As one would expect, this is generating heated debate within the Legislature. Potential costs to electric ratepayers to support Pennsylvania’s nuclear plants could be $500 million a year (See analysis by the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy ).
The Path Forward
We have a long way to go to meet the 2050 goals. The current plan gives a good description of the scale of this challenge. The Plan itself provides only a starting point to reach the 2025 goals. It recognizes that additional actions are needed by not just government, but by individuals, businesses, and communities. The choice of actions will involve compromises between effectiveness, economic feasibility, and impacts to our standard of living.
Future three-year updates of the plan will undoubtedly include technology advancements and new Federal regulations that shape the course of action. It will be interesting to see how much things change by the time the 2021 Action Plan is released.