(Photo by Amanda Berg for the Capital-Star)
By Flora Cardoni
As Pennsylvanians are taking stock of 2023 and setting resolutions for 2024, our elected officials should be setting some resolutions of their own to more rapidly transition the Keystone State to clean energy. Data shows that as states across the country tap into the clean energy economy, Pennsylvania has fallen behind.
But we can turn this ship around. With targeted investments in clean energy projects and Pennsylvania’s strong tradition of manufacturing and organized labor, our state can become a national leader in the renewable energy boom.
The United States passed the most ambitious climate legislation in our nation’s history in 2022 when the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) was signed into law. Since that time, investments from the IRA have supercharged clean energy projects here in Pennsylvania and nationwide. Pennsylvania has seen more than $697 million in clean energy investments and hundreds of good-paying jobs created since the law’s passage.
It’s estimated that the IRA will invest $270 million in large-scale clean power generation and storage in Pennsylvania over the next six years. This is on top of an estimated $3 billion that private companies have committed to clean energy manufacturing and renewable energy projects in the state. These business and government investments are helping make our air safer to breathe and our water safer to drink, helping to leave a livable planet for future generations.
Much of this investment is going directly to the communities that need it most. Nationally, the majority of new clean energy projects are located in communities of color. According to an analysis conducted by the Treasury Department, 81% of investment funds announced for clean energy projects since the IRA’s passage have gone to counties with below-average wages.
In Pennsylvania, that number is 100%. The IRA is also intentionally investing in “energy communities” like brownfields, which are sites contaminated by industrial pollution.
This is especially important in Pennsylvania, where these investments can help communities get back on their feet that have seen coal mines close or coal-fired power plants retire. These funds can be used for retrofitting clean manufacturing facilities, recycling, industrial decarbonization, and more.
Investing in clean energy also saves Pennsylvanians money. Electric vehicles provide thousands of dollars in lifetime cost savings compared to gas-powered cars, while energy-efficient appliances help lower our electricity bills. Low and moderate-income households in Pennsylvania are also eligible for rebates that cover 50-100% of the cost of installing new electric appliances, ranging from heat pumps and water heaters to clothes dryers and ovens.
Polling shows that saving money via clean energy is wildly popular with Pennsylvanians. These polls show that energy-saving policies such as making our homes more efficient are among the top reasons why Pennsylvanians support the Inflation Reduction Act. These benefits are popular with Democrats, Republicans, and independents.
Given the significant tax credits offered through the Inflation Reduction Act— including credits that cover 30% of the costs of installing solar panels and battery storage systems—solar projects in Pennsylvania should see a huge boost in growth. In fact, the Biden administration estimates that an additional 610,000 Pennsylvania households will install rooftop panels due to the package’s tax credits.
But in order to tackle climate change and ensure Pennsylvania keeps up with other states in the transition to a clean energy economy, it will take more than funding from the federal government. As we’ve seen with states across the country, local and state-level policies are also critical. Pennsylvania’s elected officials in the state legislature should commit to implementing these policies as quickly as possible.
2024 can and should be a year of continued growth and prosperity for our clean energy economy. If we make a resolution to achieve a clean energy future, we’ll all reap the benefits.
Flora Cardoni is the Field Director for PennEnvironment.
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