October 8, 2008

PennFuture Lauds State Legislature for Passage of Energy Savings Program

Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture) today praised the passage of HB 2200, a robust energy savings program, by the Pennsylvania Legislature, calling it a "triple win, with relief from high electricity bills for Pennsylvania's families and businesses; a guaranteed reduction in pollution through smarter use of energy; and a jobs creation bill, potentially leading to thousands of great green jobs." The bill passed the Senate today by a vote of 47 to 3, and the House by a 186 to 4 vote.

"While this legislation isn't perfect, it is a major advance, helping keep Pennsylvania in the forefront of the new green energy economy," said Jan Jarrett, president and CEO of PennFuture. "And it couldn't come at a better time. As we watch the stock market implode and the economy deteriorate, our families and businesses are desperate to find ways to cut their budgets. This bill will give all Pennsylvanians the tools and technologies they need to get their high electricity costs under control, and will do so in advance of the removal of electric rate caps.

"Applying vibrant energy conservation measures is the fastest and cheapest way any family or business can save money," continued Jarrett, "and this legislation makes that possible. Our elected officials worked hard to make sure that this bill would provide the help our families and businesses need so badly, with great leadership coming from House Majority Whip Keith McCall (D-Carbon), Senator Republican Floor Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Chester), Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati (R-Clearfield) and Senator Robert Tomlinson (R-Bucks). Governor Edward Rendell originally proposed the energy savings bill in his Energy Independence Strategy and has been a strong champion of the bill throughout the legislative process. The bill was authored and guided by Representative Camille "Bud" George (D-Clearfield), Chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. We are very grateful to these leaders, and to all of the legislators who helped make this historic legislation a reality."

The legislation passed today requires overall demand for electricity to be reduced by 1 percent by 2011 and by 3 percent by 2013; peak demand must be reduced by 4.5 percent by 2013. The bill ensures that utilities will be fully accountable for reaching the targets. Failure to meet the 1 percent reduction by 2011 will expose the utilities to a penalty as high as $20 million and the bill requires the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) to take the conservation program away from a utility failing to meet the goal. Utilities are required to bid out at least some, and potentially all, of the components of the conservation program to third party providers. The bill also guarantees universal smart meter deployment in 15 years and allows utilities to recover the costs in rates.

The legislation also includes some changes to the landmark Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS). The bill adds specific hydro and paper pulp plants to Tier 1 of the AEPS, but is structured to do no harm to the value of Tier 1 renewable energy credits by requiring the PUC to increase the Tier 1 requirement in an amount to accommodate the new generation sources. HB 2200 also calls for a study of carbon sequestration to reduce heat trapping gas pollution from coal-fired plants, and it includes provisions on procurement and the reorganization of the PUC. PennFuture is disappointed that House language boosting the solar and Tier I requirements of the AEPS were not included in the final bill, and looks forward to working with legislators on this issue next year.

"PennFuture's staff and supporters worked tirelessly for 18 months to see this energy savings bill come to fruition," said Jarrett. "The many citizens who testified at town hall meetings; wrote, emailed, called and visited their elected officials; and wrote letters to the editor, called in to talk shows and blogged on the issue, arousing other citizens to also take action, show the best of our democracy in action. They proved that citizen action works for the common good."

PennFuture is a statewide public interest membership organization, founded in 1998. Working from the premise that "Every environmental victory grows the economy," PennFuture has successfully advocated for landmark environmental legislation, including passage of the largest ever environmental funding bond, passage of the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act, adoption of the Clean Vehicles Program and adoption of a regulation that protects Pennsylvania's babies by restricting mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants. PennFuture has staff throughout the state, in Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, West Chester and Scranton. The Philadelphia Inquirer called PennFuture the "state's leading environmental advocacy organization."