OP-ED: Advancing Pennsylvania's energy economy


Earlier this month, President Obama released the Clean Power Plan, guiding states to reduce emissions from power plants. For Pennsylvania, this could revolutionize the ways in which we produce and consume energy, and usher in an advanced energy economy that creates thousands of new jobs and spurs innovation. Our state leaders must seize on this opportunity.

State and federal policies have always fostered and influenced the direction of our nation's energy economy. Here in Pennsylvania, policies and subsidies have long favored fossil fuels. As a result, we not only claim the title of being the nation's third-largest energy producer, but also the dubious distinction of being the nation's third-largest polluter.

Yet few Pennsylvanians know that recent state policy has brought to life a new and rapidly growing advanced energy economy in Pennsylvania. It's an economy that helps businesses and homeowners invest in money-saving, energy-efficient building improvements, as well as innovative advanced energy technologies.

In fact, a recent study by Keystone Energy Efficiancy Alliance and E2 found that 4,200 advanced energy companies currently do business in Pennsylvania, employing over 57,000 residents. And those numbers continue to grow. The energy businesses in our state range from local "mom and pop" companies to national and multi-national firms, all of which have specifically chosen to work in the Keystone State for our smart, forward-thinking energy policy.

We must build on this momentum to continue growing this economy, transforming our energy infrastructure to put more Pennsylvanians back to work.

The Clean Power Plan is our newest and best opportunity to do just that. The plan sets achievable goals for each state to reduce power plant pollution and gives states the flexibility to meet those targets through customized strategies. Our state leaders have an important choice: Continue with more of the same technologies of the past, or spur development of a new generation of energy technologies that will deliver a host of benefits to Pennsylvania.

By making use of technologies and services such as energy efficiency, advanced energy technologies, demand response, and energy storage, Pennsylvania can lower energy costs, improve reliability, and increase consumer choice as it reduces emissions.

A focus on energy efficiency measures will not only save consumers money, but will also create jobs.

After operating for less than four years in Pennsylvania, one of our member companies with the Keystone Energy Efficiancy Alliance helped customers save nearly $45 million on their electric bills. As a result, the company grew, workers have good-paying local jobs and thousands of Pennsylvania families have lower energy bills and more money in their pockets.

Another KEEA company helped Pennsylvania's large commercial and industrial businesses realize significant energy savings through more than 3,500 energy efficiency projects, making these companies more profitable while also permanently reducing state-wide energy demand.

Yet another started from the ground up in Pennsylvania, opening its doors here with just six employees and quickly growing to its current staff of over 30 workers.

The list goes on. And while each company is unique, the theme is the same. Smart advanced energy policies are attracting business to our state and reducing energy costs — a win-win for businesses and residents alike.

We've only begun to scratch the surface of our full potential and must do more to build upon this positive momentum. We urge Gov. Tom Wolf and state lawmakers from both parties to make advanced energy solutions the cornerstone of Pennsylvania's energy vision.

— Brian Kauffman is executive director of the Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance.