Clean energy is the future. Costs are plummeting, it’s abundant, and it’s far better than what we have now. Clean energy will replace dirty energy, the critical question is how soon. A quick transition could dramatically limit the harms of climate change, while a gradual change wouldn’t. That’s why the Council is working hard to make sure that wind, solar, and other renewables can flourish in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.
When people think of renewable energy in Pennsylvania, offshore wind probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But Pennsylvania isn’t a land-locked state – Erie County in the far Northwest corner of the state has almost 50 miles of shoreline and control over 759 square miles of Lake Erie. Not only is Lake Erie close to major sources of energy consumption (Detroit, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh), but its shallow eastern basin and strong winds make it an ideal site for offshore-wind development.
That’s why the Clean Air Council helped found the Northwest Pennsylvania Green Economy Task Force (NWPAGE) to advocate for this and other green projects in the region. In particular, the Council and NWPAGE are cooperating on a campaign aimed at bringing 300 MW of offshore-wind online by 2022. With the recent announcement of an “icebreaker” 18-MW project in the Ohio portion of the lake, Lake Erie is beginning to take shape as an important source of clean, renewable power.
Like almost all renewable energy, solar is booming right now. In 2014 more solar capacity was installed in the United States than any other energy type. These installations pushed total US solar capacity to 22,700 MW, or enough to power 4.6 million homes. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware have all contributed greatly to these impressive numbers, ranking (respectively) 2nd, 8th, and 15th in total installed capacity.
While Pennsylvania has been a strong installer of solar, the city of Philadelphia has lagged behind. To improve this, the Council has pushed three main initiatives. The first has been to use local government where possible to support solar, such as passing pro-solar resolutions and making the permitting process more efficient. Second has been our Solarize campaign to get people to actually purchase solar panels for their homes. Lastly, our Solar Youth campaign aims to ensure that Philadelphia low-income youth benefit from the job opportunities presented with more solar installations.
The cheapest, cleanest, and easiest way to reduce pollution is to simply use less energy. Energy efficiency can (roughly) be defined as using less energy while still maintaining the same standard of living and lifestyle. And right now, energy efficiency is booming. Just a few years ago, appliances that were certified as highly efficient (the “Energy Star” certification) had that as a distinct selling point. Now, Energy Star certification is the norm for most appliances sold. LED lightbulbs are 92% more efficient than incandescent and plummeting in price. Nest’s “learning” thermostats are becoming increasingly common. Everywhere you look, energy efficiency is becoming more and more the norm.