Since 2000, electricity consumption in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has risen at nearly 2% per year and usage is expected to continue to rise steadily at about 1.4% per year between 2008 and 2025. Peak demand, or use of electricity during the hottest days of each year, is also expected to grow. This growing need for energy is compounded by the fact that energy markets have become increasingly volatile and electricity rate caps for most Pennsylvania customers are coming off in the next 2 years, creating concerns about high consumer energy bills that will increasingly strain household budgets. Consumer energy bills for natural gas and fuel have faced alarming volatility that also strains household budgets. As this report will demonstrate, there is significant potential for clean energy solutions, including energy efficiency, demand response, and onsite solar technology, to revitalize the economic health of Pennsylvania while simultaneously moderating the impacts of increasing energy needs and volatile energy markets.
Energy efficiency is the least-cost resource available to meet energy needs in Pennsylvania, is the quickest to deploy for near-term impacts, and has a positive net benefit on job creation and economic stimulus. With electricity rate caps expiring for most electricity customers in the state by 2010, some utilities are projecting rate increases1. Unlike supply-side energy resources, energy efficiency and demand response are the only resources that can actually begin to reduce customer electric bills by reducing overall consumption. And by freeing up dollars in consumer budgets, these clean energy investments can stimulate the economy and create new "green collar" jobs in fields such as construction and technology development and deployment.
Recent legislation in Pennsylvania that aims to encourage energy efficiency and renewable energy investments (the Alternative Energy Investment Fund and Act 129) and a growing awareness of the value of these resources demonstrate a growing consensus that the Commonwealth must do more to realize these clean energy resources. The goal of this study is to inform policymakers, stakeholders, and the general public of the opportunities for energy efficiency, demand response, and onsite solar energy in Pennsylvania, and to suggest specific policy and program recommendations the Commonwealth could implement to tap into these clean energy resources.
The report is organized into the following sections:
1PPL Electric Utilities Corporation has advised its customers to expect at least a 25% increase when rate caps come off (PPL 2007). However, electric rates for PennPower and Duquesne residential and commercial customers have decreased (in real dollars) about 30% over the past 15 years and PECO is projecting residential rate increases of 8 percent (DEP 2009).