No Juice in Shapiro’s Energy Plan

Member Group : PA Manufacturers' Assn.

Even as Gov. Josh Shapiro’s energy proposal has been introduced in legislative form, his intention to impose a carbon tax on electricity generation (“PACER”) and overthrow competitive electricity markets (“PRESS”) is in imminent danger of collapsing under the weight of its own absurdity.

“Right now, in our commonwealth, we must take action to catch up in the race to create clean and reliable energy – to be more competitive, ensure consumers pay less for their electricity bills, and create more jobs and opportunities for our businesses to grow and our workers to get ahead,” Shapiro said when he announced the two proposals in March.

If enacted, the measures would deliver the opposite: fewer jobs, higher costs, and a strain on our electrical grid caused by a plan that can’t explain where all the “clean” energy will come from or how it would be delivered.

“Enacting a new, additional tax on Pennsylvania-generated electricity is an insult to consumers and a death wish for our economy,” said PMA President & CEO David N. Taylor. “Similarly, giving half of Pennsylvania’s electricity market to government-chosen producers is stunningly wrongheaded, especially when several of the promised energy sources DO NOT EXIST and will not come into being before the governor’s 2035 deadline.”

Further proving the magical thinking underlying the scheme, a press release on the governor’s website highlights praise from the Sierra Club, the Clear Air Council, the National Resources Defense Council, and other radical green groups.

PACER (HB 2275/SB 1191) is the state-level version of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the multi-state carbon tax cartel that Shapiro’s predecessor, acting without input from the General Assembly, ordered Pennsylvania to join. RGGI’s future is now in the hands of the state Supreme Court after Commonwealth Court in November correctly ruled that the taxing power is held exclusively by the legislative branch of government.

PRESS (HB 2277/SB 1190) is Shapiro’s plan to refashion Pennsylvania’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act (AEPS) of 2004. By the year 2035, PRESS would mandate 35% of all electricity come from Tier I sources, 10% from Tier II sources, and 5% from Tier III sources under a revised AEPS.

Boasting of the new sources included in the revised AEPS, Governor Shapiro said: “So not only will it be wind and solar anymore, but it’s also going to be methane digesters, new fusion technology, [and] small modular nuclear reactors.”

Unfortunately, two of Shapiro’s Tier I energy sources — small modular nuclear reactors and fusion reactors — are many years if not decades from coming into existence or going online, if they ever become viable at all. The likelihood of those sources contributing to Pennsylvania’s energy production by 2035 is near zero.

There are many fundamental questions about this plan that the bill sponsors must answer before the legislature can even begin considering it. Such as:
• Which energy sources will provide how much electricity by what date?

• How many acres of land will be consumed by solar panels and where will they be located?

• Where will the new transmission lines be built to carry the electricity from generation sources to consumers, and will activists oppose them as they have opposed pipelines?
• What battery technology will be used for power storage and backup, how much will we need, and where will they be located?• What remediation plans will be enacted to address water runoff, soil erosion, and loss of habitat to wildlife caused by building solar arrays and windmills?
• What remediation plans will be enacted to protect birds and bats that will be endangered by incineration by solar arrays and bludgeoning deaths by windmills?
• What remediation plans will be enacted to dispose of untold millions of tons of dead solar panels and windmill blades in the 2040s and 50s?

For reference, 50% of Pennsylvania’s electricity generation would be 110,000,000,000,000 watt hours at this time, with usage expected to increase year by year.

Not only are the PACER/PRESS plans untenable, but they are unpopular as well. Polling finds that nearly two of three Pennsylvanians oppose RGGI and RGGI-like plans.

The reason is simple: households and business understand that the plans won’t create jobs and lower costs but kill jobs and increase costs. A Commonwealth Foundation analysis data suggests the economic impact of PACER alone would amount to $499 million in new taxes.

Moreover, any plan relying on science fiction energy sources, and those that produce intermittent power, will be a shock to our grid.

From the Commonwealth Foundation analysis: “Renewables are intermittent power sources, meaning they are not dispatchable and cannot provide baseload power. Thus, they are not as reliable or able to keep the lights on without backup dispatchable sources.”

“While renewables serve as a valuable part of grid diversification,” the analysis continued, “mandating their use presents many challenges. The need for increased battery storage infrastructure and grid modifications or upgrades increases the onboarding expenses for renewables to the grid, raising energy costs. And dispatchable and baseload sources will need to remain on the grid for backup.”

Meanwhile, the energy marketplace is already providing the answers to both reliable affordable energy and a cleaner environment. Data from the Independent Fiscal Office shows that Pennsylvania through the increased use of natural gas, of which the state has ample supplies, is reducing its carbon footprint without PRESS or PACE, while increasing energy production. The robust energy marketplace has created 424,000 direct and indirect jobs.

It’s unclear when the Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of RGGI. However the Court rules, Senate Republicans aren’t showing much faith in Shapiro’s plans.

“Our Commonwealth needs to be focused on unleashing our energy potential, not taxing it,” Senate President Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) said when Shapiro announced his plan in March. “Doing so would create thousands of good jobs and keep our power grid secure. Shapiro’s carbon tax proposal appears to be more aligned with states like California and Washington, who suffer from rolling blackouts and higher energy prices.”