Across the U.S., state agencies, legislators, and regulatory bodies are working to better understand the future of a more distributed energy infrastructure. In the past, managing the electric grid was a much more predictable industry – projecting demand, growth, and understanding how centralized generation plants could supply load within the system. This model, however, is changing. Increasingly affordable distributed energy resources (DERs) such as residential solar panels have repositioned the role of the consumer, communities across the state are beginning to look at options for locally-generated electricity, and the resources required to meet customer demand are rapidly changing. These forces are putting pressures on our existing grid and the regulatory bodies in charge of safely managing this complex infrastructure.
Pennsylvania is a state, however, that is uniquely positioned to rise and meet all of the above challenges. There is an opportunity to adjust to evolving energy markets while also capturing the history and future of rich natural resources within the state. Although the traditional energy legacy of Pennsylvania provides employment today, recent analysis suggests that further supporting clean energy may produce an additional almost 10,000 jobs in the state in 2018 alone. There is no doubt that the challenges of climate change against the backdrop of an increasingly unpredictable federal landscape will require strong state leadership. Currently in Harrisburg, agencies are working across multiple disciplines and local governments to better understand our collective challenges.
Pennsylvania’s place in the energy transition can thus be a holistic approach to energy resource diversification – creating policy that dually prioritizes economic development as well as long-term sustainability goals, putting communities and consumers first. Our sustainability story is one that must focus on an energy transition that utilizes all locally available resources and paves the way for peer states. By doing so, Pennsylvania can be a model state for an integrated energy transition.