Utility Commission Out-of-Step with Renewables

Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell announced his opposition to a decision by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission that effectively scraps a plan that would have increased the mix of advanced and renewable energy in electricity generation by the state utility, Duquesne Light Co.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – September 17, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] Rendell called the PUC’s decision a setback to efforts to ensure reliable, clean energy essential to a strong economy and clean environment. The PUC rejected an agreement by Duquesne Light to increase to 4 percent the amount of electricity generated by renewable resources that would be supplied to smaller customers. The PUC apparently gave the “4 percent agreement” a big, thumbs-down, even though no party to the case opposed it. Also at issue is the PUC’s decision that will force Duquesne to price electricity sales to industrial customers on an hourly basis, thereby increasing Pennsylvania consumers’ energy bills and severely straining the manufacturing sector, according to the Governor. The PUC decision is in opposition to a settlement reached by Duquesne Light, its customers and the state Office of Consumer Advocate, and it abandons the counsel of an administrative law judge on the matter, Rendell’s Administration said. The Governor noted there is strong, bipartisan support for a portfolio standard in Pennsylvania. Rendell, in his February 3 budget address, proposed a new Advanced Energy Portfolio Standard to ensure that in 10 years, 10 percent of all of the energy generated in the Commonwealth comes from renewable energy like solar and wind power. “Pennsylvania is blessed with abundant energy resources,” Governor Rendell said. “We need a portfolio standard so we are better putting those resources to work to ensure clean, affordable and reliable energy for industrial and residential customers.” Pennsylvania already is leading by example, using its own purchasing power to pioneer alternative energy sources and support the development of active markets for renewable energy by negotiating contracts to increase the Commonwealth’s purchase of clean and advanced energy to 10 percent. The Governor has proposed moving to 20 percent. “The PUC’s failure to embrace the increased mix of advanced and renewable energy in electricity generation by Duquesne is counter to the state’s efforts,” Governor Rendell said. “The PUC should take notice of the state’s leadership in promoting clean energy and reverse its current course. If the commission rules out a place for alternative energy, future energy supplies will be less secure and more costly.” As a follow-up to his manufacturing summit earlier this year, the Governor has directed Environmental Protection Kathleen McGinty and Community and Economic Development Secretary Dennis Yablonsky to convene a high-level meeting in Harrisburg to bring together Pennsylvania manufacturers, suppliers of alternative and more affordable energy resources, and the financial community. The “Industrial Energy Alternatives” meeting, which will take place on Oct. 8, will provide assistance to industries that are struggling to remain competitive in the face of rising energy costs. The administration is sending a formal letter to the PUC to ask for immediate action. “The ball is now in the PUC’s court,” said Pennfuture, a state public interest group. “While no one knows what this will eventually mean for the proposed agreement, it is fairly clear that the current members of the PUC are not enthusiastically in step with the state’s promotion of renewable energy. And their impending decision could set a precedent for how renewable energy fares in other agreements and settlements.”
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