Editor’s Note: Experts are available in Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. to discuss this analysis


New analysis of Pennsylvania’s power sector finds that the state has already made significant cuts to its carbon pollution emissions and is well positioned to make deeper reductions in the coming years. These reductions will help the state meet expected national carbon pollution standards by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). EPA issued proposed carbon emissions standards for new power plants last month and is expected to announce rules for existing plants in 2014.

The analysis, conducted by the World Resources Institute, shows that the state already has momentum to make substantive emissions reductions. A combination of existing state policies and improved use of infrastructure could yield a 21 percent emissions reduction (below 2011 emissions levels) in Pennsylvania by 2020.

“Pennsylvania has taken critical steps to lower its carbon emissions—these actions bring opportunities for business innovation and investment in low carbon energy sources,” said Michael Obeiter, a senior associate at WRI, who led the analysis. “With additional actions, Pennsylvania can meet upcoming emissions standards and help reduce the risks of climate change.” With its existing state energy efficiency and renewable energy goals, the Keystone state is well-positioned to reduce carbon dioxide pollution to comply with new national standards for power plants. These standards are one of the most important parts of the Climate Action Plan that President Obama introduced in June 2013.

Following are ways that Pennsylvania can help meet these reductions.

Meeting existing state policy goals:

  • Meeting the Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS) passed in 2008 would reduce Pennsylvania’s emissions by 11 percent by 2020 compared to 2011 levels; and

  • Meeting the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS) passed in 2004 would reduce Pennsylvania’s emissions by 4 percent in 2020 compared to 2011 levels. Using existing infrastructure to achieve further emissions reductions:

  • Increasing combined heat and power (CHP) at commercial and industrial facilities would reduce Pennsylvania’s emissions by 3 percent in 2020 compared to 2011 levels;

  • Increasing the state’s utilization of combined cycle natural gas capacity to 75 percent would reduce Pennsylvania’s emissions by 3 percent in 2020 compared to 2011 levels; and

  • Increasing efficiency of existing coal-fired power plant fleet would reduce Pennsylvania’s emissions by 2 percent in 2020 compared to 2011 levels.

To comply with the state’s EERS, utilities have already implemented a wide range of programs that help customers save energy and money, including high-efficiency appliance programs, low-income home audits, and load management services for commercial and industrial facilities. Continuing the program after its current phase ends in 2016 will be cost effective for the state’s customers.

According to a study conducted for the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, continuing the electric efficiency program will be very cost effective for Pennsylvania ratepayers, with the potential to achieve $5 billion to $10 billion in net benefits over a 10-year period starting in 2013.

“Expanding energy efficiency and renewable energy production will bring multiple benefits to Pennsylvanians,” Obeiter says. “Along with creating jobs and raising demand for in-state manufacturing, shifting to renewable energy, such as wind and solar, could lower consumers’ annual electric bills and drive emissions reductions in the power sector.”

So far, wind power has brought $2.7 billion dollars of investment to Pennsylvania and accounts for some 3,000 jobs. Pennsylvania has the opportunity to achieve even greater emissions reductions. The new analysis suggests that strengthening the EERS and RPS, along with increasing CHP capacity, could propel Pennsylvania to meet ambitious standards and lower emissions by 34 percent (below 2011 levels) by 2020 and 63 percent by 2030.