Deep Decarbonization

As the nation’s leading exporter of electricity and third-largest emitter of carbon dioxide, Pennsylvania has a responsibility to lead on climate.

PEC has revisited its 2019 Energy and Climate Pathways Report to provide an updated decarbonization roadmap – predicated on an “all in” approach – for policy action during the 2021-2022 state legislative session.  This roadmap includes:
  • Continuing the process to link with other states in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative
  • Reforming the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards into a Clean Energy Standard
  • Creating or enhancing tax credits, grants, loans, or other financial incentives for energy efficiency and energy use reduction, as well as strengthening and expanding existing Act 129 energy efficiency programs and weatherization programs
  • Adopting measures to promote community solar and grid modernization
  • Adopting policies and incentives to support installation of distributed energy resources, including renewables and energy storage
  • Advancing measures to facilitate clean energy development, including with regard to contracting and siting
  • Considering new or enhanced financial incentives and otherwise leveraging state resources to help bring other zero-carbon technologies to commercial readiness in Pennsylvania
In addition, measures are needed to decarbonize Pennsylvania’s transportation sector.  Decarbonization roadmap actions for transportation include:
  • Continuing to collaborate with neighboring states to ensure that the Transportation and Climate Initiative results in a robust policy proposal that is then implemented by the Commonwealth
  • Promoting electric vehicles, electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and other low-carbon fuels

Since the release of PEC’s decarbonization policy agenda in early 2019, Governor Tom Wolf has issued an executive order to begin Pennsylvania’s initiation into RGGI. That rulemaking process is now proceeding toward hopeful completion by the end of 2021. We urge the governor and General Assembly to continue working toward a zero-carbon energy future that serves all Pennsylvanians.

Below, we have compiled a variety of policy documents, research, and multimedia content related to deep decarbonization that have been featured on the PEC website in the years since we began our focus on climate more than a decade ago.

Report: Climate and Energy Policy Recommendations

January 2021

PEC has updated its 2019 Pathways report to provide a more complete decarbonization roadmap – predicated on an “all in” approach – for policy action during the 2021-2022 state legislative session.


Report: A Policy Pathway Forward

January 2019

Pittsburgh — Calling on Governor Wolf and the General Assembly to act without further delay, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) today identified immediate steps Pennsylvania can take to reduce emissions of climate-changing gases.

“After years of talk, debate, research, and more talk about climate change, PEC respectfully requests that Governor Wolf and the General Assembly move immediately to join nine other Northeastern states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI),” said Davitt Woodwell, President of PEC. “We also ask that the governor and legislature adopt a Clean Energy Standard out of the current Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard.”

Taking these actions in the right ways will promote a broad, technology-agnostic energy policy that encourages low- and zero-carbon-emission energy sources including renewables, nuclear, and fossil fuels with carbon capture technologies. Following these steps, Pennsylvania can substantially reduce emissions while working to protect consumers and create opportunities for workers…

PEC's Record on Deep Decarbonization

For more than a decade PEC has been studying how Pennsylvania can confront climate change. In 2007, our Climate Change Roadmap helped set the stage for passage of the Pennsylvania Climate Change Act of 2008, which mandated the development of a climate action plan for the state. Since then, we have continued working with experts and stakeholders to develop substantive policy recommendations for reducing Pennsylvania’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Coverage & Commentary

Putting the Pieces Together

Growing the market for clean energy will accelerate Pennsylvania’s progress toward the emission reduction targets announced by Governor Wolf in January, 2019.

Achieving Deep Carbon Reductions

Paths for Pennsylvania's Electricity Future

To examine the efficacy of deep decarbonization as an option for Pennsylvania’s electricity future, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council convened a gathering of experts and stakeholders in March 2017.

PEC’s deep decarbonization  conference was held March 15-16, 2017 in Pittsburgh.

In a comprehensive and coordinated effort, prominent thought leaders in clean energy and climate protection held an open and honest discussion around the challenges of deep decarbonization as a potential strategy for Pennsylvania.

The event kicked off a broader conversation about whether deep decarbonization makes sense for our state and, if so, what the components of this strategy will be, and what policies and programs are needed to get there.

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% of Pennsylvania’s CO2 emissions. We explored activities in the following four areas: renewable energy, carbon capture and storage for fossil fuels, energy efficiency, and nuclear power.


Setting the Stage

Neil Donahue, Carnegie Mellon University
Granger Morgan, Carnegie Mellon University


Renewable Energy

Jesse Jenkins, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Eric Gimon, Energy Innovation
Steve Brick, Clean Air Task Force



“Climate Change and National Security: People not Polar Bears”
David Titley, Penn State University


Nuclear Power

Mike Ford, Carnegie Mellon University
Amber Robson, Third Way
Matthew McKinzie, Natural Resources Defense Council


Energy Efficiency

Inês Azevedo, Carnegie Mellon University
Matt Jungclaus, Rocky Mountain Institute
Sebastien Houde, University of Maryland


Carbon Capture and Storage

John Quigley, University of Pennsylvania
David Mohler, Department of Energy, retired
Jennie Stephens, Northeastern University


Environmental Leaders Response

Armond Cohen, Clean Air Task Force
Mark Brownstein, Environmental Defense Fund
Jason Albritton, The Nature Conservancy


Case Study

“The U.S. Mid-Century Strategy for Deep Decarbonization”

Jae Edmonds, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory


Pennsylvania Legacies

PEC’s Pennsylvania Legacies podcast explores pathways to deep decarbonization in conversation with scientists, policy experts, business and government leaders, and other stakeholders.

April 30, 2021


September 11, 2020

May 8, 2020

March 24, 2020

October 11, 2019

January 23, 2019

December 3, 2018

November 2, 2018

July 27, 2018

April 20, 2018

December 1, 2017

September 22, 2017

September 1, 2017

August 18, 2017

July 6, 2017

March 17, 2017

PEC Blog

September 1, 2021

Key Climate Regulation Closer to Finalization

May 18, 2021
What’s Next for Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage in Pennsylvania?

May 7, 2021

2021 Climate Impacts Assessment Highlights Challenges and Opportunities for PA

April 9, 2021
Reassessing Our Climate Footprint

January 27, 2021

The Clean Energy Transition Won’t Wait

December 23, 2020

Public Comment Overwhelmingly Supports RGGI Proposal

September 16, 2020
Pennsylvania and RGGI: Let’s Advance the Discussion — and Action

August 21, 2020
Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage in Pennsylvania: A Story Map

July 28, 2020

Offsetting Our Carbon Footprint

June 9, 2020
Carbon Capture and Pennsylvania’s Energy Future

February 27, 2020
BP Embraces Carbon Pricing

February 7, 2020
Climate Action is Here and Pennsylvania is Entering the Race

December 16, 2019
Out of Step

April 19, 2019
Let’s Do This Right

March 6, 2019
The State of Decarbonization in Pennsylvania

July 26, 2018
Mapping Pennsylvania’s EV Future

December 18, 2017
Why Carbon Capture?

November 13, 2017
Getting to Zero: ZECs and the Future of Nuclear Energy

September 15, 2017
Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage: An Opportunity for Pennsylvania?

June 26, 2017
Scientists Argue Over 100% Renewable Energy Feasibility—and It’s Fascinating

June 16, 2017
Clean Electricity: Tree Hugger Fantasy, or Utility Business Opportunity?

March 2, 2017
A Primer on Energy Efficiency: Challenges and Opportunities

February 24, 2017
It’s More Than Just the Power Sector

February 17, 2017
Economizing the Environment

February 10, 2017
Don’t Miss an Opportunity Because of Uncertainty and Complexity: Biomass Can Help on the Path to Deep Decarbonization

February 2, 2017
Nuclear Energy and Decarbonization of the Energy Sector

January 27, 2017
The Challenge and Opportunity of Deep Decarbonization

January 20, 2017
Climate Change and Energy: We Need a Big Boat

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