Initial Reactions to Energy Policy at a Crossroads

Lindsay Baxter
Lindsay Baxter

Yesterday, PEC had the opportunity to join its partners to present “Energy Policy at a Crossroads: Why 2015 is Pivotal…” This program brought experts from Boston, Philadelphia, and Harrisburg to Duquesne University in Pittsburgh for an engaging conversation around the federal and state policies relevant to scaling up energy efficiency efforts.

The event built off the results of the recently completed regional energy baseline, a report that revealed the shocking amount of energy wasted in the Power of 32 region. Granted, much of that wasted energy is in the form of waste heat at coal power plants, or is lost through transmission, but the amount wasted in homes and buildings cannot be discounted. There’s a lot we could be doing today to tackle that energy waste, while creating jobs and savings families money, buying us more time to fix the larger energy challenges we face.

My six pages of furiously scribbled notes of insight provided by these thought leaders would be far too much to include in a blog post, but here are some of the key issues we’ll be keeping our eyes on:

  •  The draft plan for Phase III of Act 129, Pennsylvania’s electricity savings program, will be released March 11 and available for stakeholder comment.
  •  The final Clean Power Plan rule is expected to be announced by EPA in June 2015, although it may be pushed back a little. States will have until June 2016 to develop their compliance plans.
  • In the last three years, Pennsylvania has ranked in the top 10 for experiencing power outages. In other words, we need to work on reliability. Programs like Act 129 and the Clean Power Plan could help us to get there.
  • Rules of the grid: run the cheapest first, and only run what you need. All generators get paid the same as the most expensive generator running at a given time.
  • Retail electricity suppliers must purchase capacity ahead of time to make sure the electricity is there when we need it—kind of like an insurance policy. Energy efficiency projects can qualify as capacity, if PJM approves it.
  • Electricity generators have challenged this practice, with concerns that making demand response and energy efficiency too expensive can make generation on the capacity market too costly (because all generators get paid at the highest rate).

We hope that this event is only the first step in connecting energy efficiency efforts in Western PA to those across the state and country. As a statewide organization, PEC can help to make these connections and bring together the right stakeholders.

Thank you to the supporting organizations who made this event possible: Conservation Consultants Inc., Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance, Encentiv Energy, Performance Development Systems, and the Center for Green Industries at Duquesne University.