Friday, August 22, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Clean-energy opportunities

The Locust Ridge Wind Farm in Schuylkill County began operations in 2007.
The Locust Ridge Wind Farm in Schuylkill County began operations in 2007. BRADLEY C. BOWER / Associated Press

Tackling climate change is one of America's greatest economic opportunities. Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency released groundbreaking standards that will limit carbon pollution from existing power plants - the single largest source of greenhouse-gas pollution in the United States. These new standards provide an opportunity for Pennsylvania businesses and investors to innovate, reduce risks, and increase returns on their investments.

The standards are the first national comprehensive effort to reduce carbon pollution, the leading cause of climate change. By tackling climate change, we are addressing a major risk to the economy and to the investments of individuals and institutions around the country. Increased frequency of severe storms, sea level rise, floods, and warmer temperatures are just some of the changes that will affect business operations and costs.

However, these rules are not just about reducing risks; they're also about creating economic opportunities.

The carbon-pollution standards will help states scale up solutions we already know work to lower emissions and grow the economy. Each state will tailor its plan to the policies, industries, and practices unique to it.

While coal and nuclear power are still the main sources of energy in Pennsylvania, the state has already taken important steps to expand and invest in renewable energy. In 2004, Pennsylvania lawmakers passed the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard, which has allowed the state to invest millions of dollars in solar, wind, and biomass energy throughout the state.

Pennsylvania is now home to the eighth-largest solar photovoltaic market in the United States. Wind power is also on the rise, with Montgomery County becoming the first wind-powered county in the nation. These standards provide an opportunity for states like Pennsylvania to ramp up the policies that are already in place and working.

As members of the investment community, we see the trend toward a clean economy as a good investment. That is why Friends Fiduciary Corp., a faith-based investment management company serving 320 Quaker meetings, schools, and organizations, has joined nearly 50 investors managing $800 billion in assets in a letter supporting the creation of these regulations and calling on states like Pennsylvania to work with the EPA to reduce carbon emissions.

In 2013, Goldman Sachs released a report on the future of the "thermal" coal used in power plants; its outlook for the fuel is bleak. With abundant, cheap natural gas, and increasingly advantageous prices for wind and solar, new coal plants will not be able to compete - with or without new regulations. Coal-burning power plants also produce harmful pollutants, which can cause asthma, respiratory disease, and cancer.

The carbon-pollution standards should help reduce these public-health impacts and accelerate private-sector investment in a low-carbon future. These policies will also provide certainty for companies and investors and offer clear market signals that the United States is committed to lowering emissions.

Thankfully, the EPA recognizes all of the successes states, businesses, and households around the country have already achieved in reducing carbon emissions. The EPA has crafted a flexible means for states to reduce emissions from power plants, including through existing energy efficiency and renewable energy measures.

Now the ball is in Pennsylvania's court to craft forward-thinking plans to maximize emissions reductions through a range of clean-energy solutions. The carbon-pollution standards can help spur lawmakers to build jobs and investment opportunities while protecting the health and future of all Pennsylvanians.

 


Jeffery Perkins is the executive director of Friends Fiduciary Corp., based in Philadelphia. jperkins@friendsfiduciary.org

Jeffery Perkins
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