HARRISBURG – Two electric utilities with customers in eastern Pennsylvania are taking different positions on revising state energy laws requiring them to purchase power from alternative energy sources and encourage customers to conserve energy.
Executives from PPL Corp. and PECO testified Monday before the House Republican Policy Committee which is examining whether the Rendell-era laws affect the overall cost of energy and the bills consumers pay.
PPL officials said both laws bring positive benefits for consumers, while PECO called for specific changes to the laws as a way to lower costs for consumers.
The Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act requires utilities to purchase 18 percent of their power from renewable and alternative energy sources such as wind, solar, methane and waste coal by 2020. The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act requires utilities to develop energy conservation plans to reduce use, especially during peak demand hours.
Both laws are starting to take effect now after the expiration of decade-old caps on electric rates for Pennsylvania customers at the end of 2009 and 2010. PPL opposes efforts to amend the portfolio standards law, said Douglas Krall, PPL’s manager of regulatory strategy. “Constant attempts to amend the legislation create uncertainty with the renewable energy market,” he said. “We believe uncertainty deters investment in alternative generation sources.”
PPL Renewable Energy is involved with several solar, wind and landfill methane projects, he said. PPL EnergyPlus purchases wind energy generated by wind projects at Bear Creek in Luzerne County and Locust Ridge in Schuylkill County.
On the other hand, PECO Vice President Romulo L. Diaz Jr. urged new legislation to rein in the cost of “alternative energy credits” that utilities purchase for each megawatt hour of electricity generated by those sources as well as other cost containment steps.
“Costs for implementation of state-mandated programs are the fast-growing portion of our customers’ total electricity rates,” he said.
The cost of implementing these laws has to be examined in light of other priorities, such as modernizing the electric grid and maintaining programs to assist low-income customers, said Terrance Fitzpatrick, president of the Energy Association of Pennsylvania, an industry trade group.
The GOP panel took testimony only from a panel of utility executives. Representatives of environmental groups and the two state advocates for small businesses and consumers will be invited to testify at a future hearing, said Rep. Dave Reed, R-Indiana, the panel chairman. Meanwhile, an environmentalist said moves to weaken the portfolio standards law can have an impact on the more than 100,000 “green energy” jobs in Pennsylvania.
“It’s (protecting) those jobs and investments that have already been made,” said Jan Jarrett, president of PennFuture, who attended the hearing.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding