Imagine…PA Chamber and Conservative Administration Lead Major New PA Renewable Energy Policy

Stephen Herzenberg |

“This package will send a strong signal to investors that the government is serious about providing firms with the certainty they need to invest in affordable, secure, low-carbon energy,” said Gene Barr, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, the state’s main business group, in a statement responding to a new measure that would increase the amount of electricity from renewable energy to 30% by 2020, up from 11% today,

OK, it wasn’t actually Gene Barr. It was his British counterpart, John Cridland, director general of the Confederation of British Industry, in a story last week about a strong new push for renewable energy by Britain’s Conservative-led coalition government. (The Liberal Party is the junior partner in Britain’s coalition government.)

Pennsylvania has a law similar to Britain’s that requires growing fractions of electricity to come from renewable or other “advanced” energy sources. In 2004, this law passed with significant bipartisan support. It positioned Pennsylvania as a national leader in wind and solar energy. The law led to billions of dollars in new investment and significant job creation in Pennsylvania.

As other states and countries, including Britain, increase requirements that electricity come from renewables, however, Pennsylvania and its businesses are losing their position of leadership; in fact, wind companies have actually had to lay off workers. This is a mistake for the state because climate change IS going to force further sharp shifts towards electricity from renewables in the next decades, so there ARE going to be much bigger global wind, offshore wind, solar, and geothermal industries.

The countries and states that ramp up requirements more quickly that electricity come from renewables will reap more of the economic benefits. They will export more of the manufactured goods and engineering services that support renewable generation of electricity. Usually, it is hard to predict the industries of the future, which makes state economic development policy hard. In this case, we KNOW expanded electricity from renewables is coming. Therefore, it makes sense for Pennsylvania renewable manufacturers and service businesses that our state get there first.

If the Pennsylvania Chamber copied its British counterpart and supported a major strengthening of Pennsylvania’s law requiring more electricity from renewables, such a law would sail through the state Legislature.

How about it, Gene?