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PA Senate Bill Threatens Energy-Efficiency Efforts

Large commercial and industrial customers use almost one-third of all electricity consumed in Pennsylvania. (pexels.com)
Large commercial and industrial customers use almost one-third of all electricity consumed in Pennsylvania. (pexels.com)
October 31, 2016

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Environmentalists say a bill passed by the state Senate could increase pollution and raise electricity prices.

Senate Bill 805 would allow large commercial and industrial power customers to opt out of energy efficiency programs required by state law.

According to Tom Schuster, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club, allowing those large users to stop participating could significantly reduce the gains that have been made in energy efficiency.

"And therefore we'd see more pollution, more climate disruption as it results in more generation of energy that will ultimately be wasted," he asserts.

Some large electricity consumers say the efficiency programs, which add a small surcharge to electric rates, aren't suitable for them and don't help them save energy.

But Schuster points out that commercial and industrial users consume one-third of the electricity used in the state. He warns that letting them opt out of the program would be a critical loss that couldn't be made up elsewhere.

"In our view, a better solution would be to work with the utilities and have them offer more customized programs that actually work for those companies," he states.

Schuster adds that, since the energy efficiency requirements began in 2009, they have saved ratepayers $2 for every $1 invested.

The bill has been referred to the House Consumer Affairs Committee, which has no more meetings scheduled this year, so the clock may run out on this legislative session.

But Schuster says that doesn't mean the bill is off the table.

"We do expect that it will get reintroduced next year, and that we're going to have to continue our advocacy to make sure that we are doing as much as we can to reduce energy waste in Pennsylvania," he states.

Gov. Tom Wolf has said he opposes the bill.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA