The report showed that Pennsylvania has lagged behind in renewable energy growth in the past decade

A new report ranks Pennsylvania at the bottom of the state in terms of renewable energy growth over the past decade.

Of all 50 states and the District of Columbia, only Pennsylvania is bested by Alaska in adding new wind and solar capacity. The Commonwealth also ranked 50th in energy efficiency programs.

Other states known for oil and gas production have been able to develop renewable energy sources at a much faster pace. The report says Texas is the leader. In 2022, Texas produced 91 times as much solar energy as it did a decade ago and three times as much wind energy.

Analysis by PennEnvironment shows that the commonwealth has had only modest growth in wind power and a tripling of solar power since 2013, with most of the growth occurring in 2019.

The country as a whole has doubled its wind capacity and seen a 12-fold increase in solar power in the same time frame.

The group is calling for a shift to 100% renewable energy sources by 2050, said Ellie Kearns, climate and clean energy officer at the Pennsylvania Environmental Research and Policy Center.

“But in the past 10 years, we have only sourced enough renewable energy to power less than 2% of Pennsylvania homes, and we continue to purchase only 3% of our electricity from renewable sources,” Kearns said.

One reason is that Pennsylvania met its renewable energy goal two years early, says Doug Neidich, CEO of solar company GreenWorks Development.

“Our Renewable Solar Certificate values ​​— the only incentive Pennsylvania offers for solar — have declined by more than 30 percent in the past six months, and will continue to decline.”

Bills have not been introduced in the General Assembly that would update the state’s renewable energy goals and improve energy efficiency standards. Utility companies in Pennsylvania must purchase 8% of their energy from renewable sources under the state’s current standards.

Rep. Patty Kim (D-Dauphin) said a measure to help schools install solar that passed the Democratic-controlled state House of Representatives this summer may have the best chance of becoming law of bills focused on renewables this session.

“(It’s) bipartisan. Everyone loves saving money. “I think this is the lowest hanging fruit in terms of passing the bill,” Kim said.

Solar growth in Pennsylvania has outpaced national growth in recent years, according to Caitlin Connelly, an analyst at energy research group Wood Mackenzie.

“When we look at just the residential solar sector, national growth has averaged 22.5% per year since 2018. Residential solar growth in PA since 2018 has averaged 32% per year on average,” Connelly said.

The group’s Q3 2023 Solar Market Report shows that Pennsylvania is the 14th largest residential solar market in the U.S. based on total solar capacity as of the second quarter of this year. She also notes that the state has seen a significant uptick in utility-scale projects this year.

Pennsylvania has a long history of fossil fuel extraction, and Connelly said the policy has been an obstacle to the growth of renewables in the state.

She points to community solar as an example. These projects will allow people who cannot install solar on their property to subscribe directly to a nearby solar field. Bills allowing this in the past few years have received bipartisan support, but have never reached the governor’s desk.

“Early optimism led to a pre-development pipeline of several hundred megawatts, so developers were hopeful the legislation would pass. However, there has been little progress or momentum toward finalizing the bill over the past two years.

The PennEnvironment report notes that Pennsylvania performed better in electric vehicles, ranking 10th in additional electric vehicles sold and 11th in electric vehicle charging stations added.

PennEnvironment is urging the Legislature and the Shapiro administration to grow clean energy by taking advantage of tax credits and federal grants from last year’s inflation-reducing law.

This story was produced in partnership with State Impact Pennsylvaniaa collaboration between WESA, The Allegheny Front, WITF, and WHYY.

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