To some, Pennsylvania may be best known for its great historical significance — as home of the Liberty Bell and the place where the Declaration of Independence was signed and the U.S. Constitution drawn up.
But Pennsylvania has an equally strong history of innovation: being home to the nation’s first baseball stadium, first commercial broadcast station, and the world’s first high-speed, multi-lane highway to name just a few examples.
So perhaps not surprisingly a growing number of Pennsylvania leaders are now taking steps to seize the growing economic opportunities in energy innovation.
“This is a win-win for everyone,” PA Sen. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Allegheny/Washington) said in a recent briefing call with local Chamber of Commerce leaders from across the Keystone State.
Sen. Reschenthaler is a co-sponsor Senate Bill 234, which would allow municipalities to establish voluntary programs to provide financing for energy upgrades without any upfront costs. Known as Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE), property owners re-pay the financing through a property assessment. C-PACE is offered in enabling legislation is active in 33 states plus Washington, D.C.
SB 234 was overwhelmingly passed on the Senate floor 42-8 and is now being considered by the House Commerce Committee. Sen. Reschenthaler asked that Chamber leaders contact their legislators to voice their support.
(Note: The Columbia Montour Chamber has not taken a formal position on this proposed legislation)
“It’s about job creation in high paying fields such as electrical contractors, excavating, general construction, engineering, and so on,” Sen. Reschenthaler said. “It will lower energy costs for local businesses, increasing competitiveness.” Importantly, he added, the program uses funds from private institutions, not taxpayer dollars.
Asked why he became interested in CPACE, Reschenthaler said because he believes in energy independence and knows that renewables help contribute to that.
Geisinger Savings Through Efficiency
Co-hosted by the Columbia Montour Chamber, the briefing call was also an opportunity for local Chamber leaders to hear from Geisinger about how it is saving with energy efficiency.
“Energy is one of these topics that can benefit everyone,” said Al Neuner, VP of Facility Operations at Geisinger. As a result of its investments in energy efficiency, Geisinger has saved $15 million in energy costs, Neuner said.
“And businesses do not have to be as large as Geisinger to benefit from energy efficiency—he noted, adding that it is very scalable and no-risk (Watch a video about Geisinger’s energy efficiency program).
“One of the things we can do as chambers is to play the role of conveyor and bring our business members, the community, the utility, and workforce development organizations together to exchange information so that clean energy, and clean energy workforce training is more relatable to all of our businesses and community members,” said Fred Gaffney, president of the Columbia Montour Chamber.
“There are people and resources there to help you pay for this,” he said, referring to Act 129, a law passed in 2008 to encourage energy efficiency and provides rebates for new appliances, lighting and windows and energy audits.
A 2017 Public Utility Commission study found that Act 129 has delivered $6.4 billion in benefits for all electric consumers to date.
Growing Solar Jobs in PA
The speakers also briefed Local Chamber leaders on the recently passed Act 40, the Solar Jobs bill, aiming to limit state payments to out of state projects and grow jobs here in PA.
Ron Celentano, President of Pennsylvania’s Solar Energy Industry Association told the audience that up to 70 percent of the solar energy purchased in the state was coming from outside the state, said.
The new Solar Jobs bill corrected this by requiring that the solar come from within Pennsylvania.
“We see this as a great opportunity to have more solar jobs created within the state,” Celentano said. “And we’ve been seeing growth of solar jobs already since the passage.”
The call was co-hosted by the Columbia Montour Chamber and Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy.