Deep Decarbonization

In late 2015, PEC began work to examine the efficacy of deep decarbonization as an option for Pennsylvania’s electricity future. This work included hosting a two-day conference in March 2017 to bring together prominent thought-leaders in clean energy and climate protection for an open and honest discussion around the challenges of deep decarbonization as a potential strategy for Pennsylvania.


Deep Decarbonization: A Strategy for Pennsylvania?

Climate change impacts every facet of environmental protection and exacerbates challenges we already face, ranging from air quality to stormwater management to invasive species. Pennsylvania’s contribution to global climate change is significant, as should be its role in limiting that change and its impacts.

Deep decarbonization refers to achieving reductions of 80% or greater by mid-century, in line with the recommendations of several national and international organizations. While there are many ways to reduce carbon emissions, the challenge is determining which strategies, or combination of actions, will be effective in obtaining sufficient emission reductions.

Power plant photo

Dating back to 2015, PEC has placed a renewed focus on the idea of deep decarbonization, a pathway to the end goal of eliminating carbon emissions altogether.

Decisions made in the next decade to achieve interim carbon reductions may either facilitate virtual elimination of carbon, or push us into “dead ends” that make that outcome impossible or unaffordable.

Complicating this is the fact that infrastructure investments being made today can lock in energy choices for decades to come, without achieving significant GHG reductions.

Emerging thinking is focusing on the idea of deep decarbonization – a pathway to the end goal of eliminating carbon emissions altogether.

Emerging thinking is focusing on the idea of deep decarbonization – a pathway to the end goal of eliminating carbon emissions altogether.

 

In late 2015, PEC began work to examine the efficacy of deep decarbonization as an option for Pennsylvania’s electricity future. This work included hosting a two-day conference in March 2017 to bring together prominent thought-leaders in clean energy and climate protection for an open and honest discussion around the challenges of deep decarbonization as a potential strategy for Pennsylvania.

While efforts will need to be made to decarbonize all sectors of the economy, including transportation, manufacturing, and agriculture, this event focused primarily on deep decarbonization of the electricity sector, which accounts for 40 percent of Pennsylvania’s CO2 emissions.

A white paper was produced summarizing the findings of the conference, which recommended several areas for additional investigation. Of these, the first to be explored further will be carbon pricing.

More information on PEC’s deep decarbonization work can be seen at www.pec-climate.org.

Why Discuss a Global Issue at a State Level?

Pennsylvania is the third-largest emitter of CO2 in the country. With approximately 200 major electricity generation facilities, the Commonwealth ranks second in the nation in electricity generation, fourth in coal production, and second in both nuclear and natural gas production. As the No. 1 state in the nation for electricity exports, electricity generation in Pennsylvania has impacts on neighboring states and beyond.

Market conditions alone may get us close to Pennsylvania’s target under the Clean Power Plan of a 33 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. However, a reduction of 80 percent by 2050, and 100 percent soon thereafter, is more in line with international and national estimates of the reduction required to prevent disastrous impacts.

PEC has a long history of convening diverse parties around complex issues for honest dialogue. We have begun exploring “deep decarbonization” and how this approach might help guide Pennsylvania (and beyond) to achieve significant carbon emissions reductions, while still ensuring affordable and dependable energy supplies and supporting a healthy economy.

Energy Efficiency

PEC believes improving the efficiency of our homes and buildings reduces harmful pollution from energy, while putting money back into our communities.

Historically, PEC has worked on several projects in Western Pennsylvania related to community-level energy efficiency, including the Meadville Community Energy Project, a small-business energy audit program in the Mon River Towns, and serving on the boards of two Sustainable Energy Funds. PEC continues to be a part of this work in the Pittsburgh region through its involvement in ReEnergize Pittsburgh, including serving on the Steering Committee and Policy Committee.

Residential energy efficiency programs have been around for decades, but struggle to expand beyond low-income weatherization programs and low-hanging fruit improvements, such as changing lightbulbs. PEC seeks to work with its partners through the ReEnergize Coalition to identify the barriers that keep residential energy efficiency from growing to scale and identifying solutions to these barriers. In April 2015, we partnered with GTECH Strategies and Conservation Consultants, Inc. to bring together more than 50 representatives of the City and County government, local municipalities, the real estate industry, lending institutions, community organizations, nonprofits, and energy auditors to solicit feedback on these issues. A white paper summarizing these findings is available here.

Priorities for PEC include building stronger connections to the real estate industry, to identify ways to assign value to energy improvements during the real estate transaction. This may include the use of home energy scores and integrating information about energy usage into the multi-list service (MLS) listings.

As chair of the ReEnergize policy committee, PEC leads efforts to identify, track, and respond to state-level legislation and programs relevant to home energy use, such as updates to the state building code, changes to the Act 129 energy efficiency program, and creation of financing tools.

 

Pittsburgh Climate Initiative

PEC works collaboratively with other organizations towards Pittsburgh’s 20 percent greenhouse gas reduction goal.

PEC is an active member of the Pittsburgh Climate Initiative (PCI), a collaborative of government, business, community, and higher education partners working together to implement the Pittsburgh Climate Action Plan.

PEC has been involved in PCI since is creation in 2008 and served as the convener between 2012-15, supporting the Sustainability Office of the City of Pittsburgh. PCI was created to guide implementation of the Pittsburgh Climate Action Plan, Version 1.0. This plan established a local greenhouse gas reduction target of 20 percent below 2003 emissions by 2023. It outlines recommendations for achieving this reduction under four sectors: Community, Government, Business, and Higher Education.

PEC’s involvement has included efforts to begin city-wide planning for climate adaptation and community resiliency, and convening a series of sustainable transportation meetings in partnership with the Mayor’s Office to determine strategies for addressing the 25 percent of greenhouse gas emissions resulting from transportation. We currently participate in the Energy and Utilities sub-committee for the creation of PCAP 3.0.

 

Pennsylvania Carbon Reduction Fund

The PA Carbon Reduction Fund, supported by WGL Energy Services and Sterling Planet, provides mini-grants for carbon tree planting as carbon offsets generated by consumer choice.

The PA Carbon Reduction Fund is an initiative managed by PEC in partnership with WGL Energy Services and Sterling Planet. Consumers who choose WGL’s 100% carbon offset natural gas product, generate funds that we are able to direct towards tree planting projects within the WGL’s service area (suburban Philadelphia).

EC Carbon Reduction Fund photo-Patrick

The Jenkintown Creek Restoration Project was made possible through PEC and its numerous partners.

Multiple tree planting projects have been funded, including two riparian tree planting projects in 2014, while both the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership and the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association were granted funds. Hundreds of trees were planted by volunteers on a first order tributary of the Jenkintown Creek and at the Four Mills Preserve on the main stem of the Wissahickon Creek.

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