By Alexandra Kroger 10/2/2018
This year National Clean Energy Week took place from September 24-28th, and here in Philadelphia it was celebrated by the local chapter of Women in Renewable Industries and Sustainable Energy (WRISE) with the second installment of their Mini-TED Talk Happy Hour series. On September 25th, WRISE members gathered at Han Dynasty in Old City to hear presentations by Maureen Mulligan of Sustainable Futures Communications, LLC and Christina Simeone of The Kleinman Center for Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. Maureen, a long-time clean energy expert, has been deeply involved in the development of the “Finding Pennsylvania’s Solar Future” draft plan by the state Department of Environmental Protection. Christina is an energy and climate issue specialist who focuses on the issues most impacting Pennsylvania.
As described by Maureen, Finding Pennsylvania’s Solar Future is a 30-month planning project that began in January 2017. The draft plan, which was released in June 2018, reflects the intense efforts of a diverse set of hundreds of public, private and nonprofit stakeholders from across the state, and has the goal of increasing the deployment of solar energy systems and incentivizing market transformation. Maureen described the various strategies being modeled across the different scenarios, including an increase to the solar carve-out in the state Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards, carbon pricing, and tax incentives. Maureen also discussed the options for incentivizing solar energy at both the grid and distributed generation levels.
Taking a broader look at the regional energy landscape, Christina’s presentation examined the potential impacts that current energy policy trends at the federal and regional levels could have in Pennsylvania. The outlook isn’t promising; the deregulatory orientation of the current federal administration would not support a transition to a sustainable energy economy. Actions to bolster the coal and nuclear energy industries, such as the invocation of a Cold War-era nationalization law (ostensibly for national security reasons) will pose a challenge for renewable energy investment as well. In local electricity grid trends, Christina discussed the various different outcomes that could transpire depending on what the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will decide regarding the PJM capacity market, which will also impact renewable energy deployment.
The joint message from both presentations was that while there will continue to be significant challenges to the broader deployment of renewable energy resources, there is reason for hope as well. State and local policy efforts and local efforts, as well as the increasing cost-competitveness of renewable energy technologies will help to ensure the long-term success of clean energy, both locally and globally.