Congresswoman Susan Wild, state Rep. Steve Samuelson & PennEnvironment host Lehigh Valley clean energy expo, release report
[Center Valley, PA] -- On Thursday evening, PennEnvironment was joined by Congresswoman Susan Wild and State Representative Steve Samuelson to host a clean energy expo promoting renewable energy solutions for the Lehigh Valley. With countless clean energy opportunities at our fingertips, the expo gave residents the opportunity to explore the tools they can implement to promote clean energy and fight climate change in their own homes and throughout the Lehigh Valley.
“Powering our lives with clean, renewable energy will reduce harmful air pollution, save consumers money, and combat climate change,” said Flora Cardoni, Climate Defender Campaign Director at PennEnvironment. “We are happy to see the growth of the renewable energy sector throughout the Lehigh Valley and we applaud Representative Wild for her leadership in tackling climate change so far this session.”
In her first term in office, Congresswoman Wild has co-sponsored HR 9, the Climate Action Now Act, which reconfirms the United State’s Commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement and H.R. 2256, the Driving America Forward Act, which expands the tax credit for new electric vehicles. Congresswoman Wild is also co-chair of the New Democrat Coalition’s Task Force on Climate Change and has spoken out about the need for climate action on the House Floor.
“Finding ways to power our country through renewables and other clean energy sources is not just an environmental imperative, it’s also an economic priority,” said Rep. Susan Wild (PA-07). “I am proud to see the Greater Lehigh Valley continue to lead in the global renewable energy sector and I am grateful to PennEnvironment for bringing together these local leaders and climate and energy advocates for a conversation about how we can work together to tackle the climate crisis and boost our local economy.”
There are now almost 5,000 clean energy jobs in the greater Lehigh Valley, with the industry constantly growing. At the clean energy Expo, Lehigh Valley residents met with businesses from across the region, including SunPulse Solar, Deluxe Plumbing and Heating, RER Energy Group, and more to learn about clean energy solutions that are already in place.
A panel of speakers including State Rep. Steve Samuelson (Bethlehem), Mollie Michel (PA Field Organizer for Moms Clean Air Force), Reverend Kevin Nadolski (Vice President for Mission at DeSales University), Bill Hennessy (Vice President of the Mid-Atlantic Renewable Energy Association’s board), and Kelly Flanigan (Global Warming Solutions Associate for PennEnvironment) spoke to the attendees about the importance of renewable energy and energy efficiency, and answered questions about how the Lehigh Valley can lead the clean energy revolution.
“Climate action and a clean energy transition are imperative to protect the health and well-being of our kids. What we do -- or don’t do -- today will make an enormous difference in what their futures look like. Pennsylvanians deserve a safe environment to raise their children, and a renewable energy future can help provide that” said Mollie Michel.
Reverend Kevin Nadolski echoed her statements: “DeSales University is proud to sponsor the Greater Lehigh Valley Renewable Energy Expo. The call to care for creation helps us ground our mission, and we are delighted to partner with our neighbors in the Lehigh Valley to collaborate on initiatives that advance the value of respecting the great gift of the earth we have been given. We look forward to learning about new opportunities, especially how we can include our students in this essential human project.”
"Climate change is already affecting us here in the Lehigh Valley -- booming tick populations continue to endanger hikers and extreme downpours are causing devastating flash flooding across the region," said PennEnvironnment’s Kelly Flanigan. "That's why PennEnvironment is working to promote clean energy solutions all across the state so that future generations of Pennsylvanians have a safe, livable climate."
At the Expo, PennEnvironment also released its newest clean energy study, Renewables on the Rise: A Decade of Progress Toward a Clean Energy Future, which compares Pennsylvania to other states in the nation through a state-by-state assessment of the growth of key technologies needed to power the Commonwealth and nation with clean renewable energy. Pennsylvania ranked 22nd for solar, 20th for energy efficiency, 16th for wind, and 8th in battery storage. The report showed encouraging progress over the last decade, while also highlighting the need for increased action at the state and federal level to make the Commonwealth a clean energy leader.
“Every day, there’s more evidence that a future fueled by renewable energy is within our reach,” said Flora Cardoni, Climate Defender Campaign Director for the PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center. “The progress we’ve made in the last decade on renewable energy technologies, all of the clean energy businesses here in the Lehigh Valley, and the committed Pennsylvanians and elected officials here tonight should give us the confidence that we can take clean energy to the next level. But there is a lot of work to do to catch up to other states around the country and be a clean energy leader.”
The study found that over the last decade, solar energy in Pennsylvania has seen a boom -- growing from just 11 GWh in 2009 to more than 510 GWh in 2018 -- a 47-fold increase, compared to the national average of 40-fold. However, Pennsylvania, as the 6th most populous state, still has a long way to go to become a solar leader -- ranking at just 22nd in the country for solar energy production.
On a brighter note, Pennsylvania is showing major strides in energy storage capacity, ranking 8th in the nation. Pennsylvania has also more than doubled the state’s wind capacity over the past decade and ranks in the top 20 states for increases in wind generation nationally.
Bill Hennesy from the Mid-Atlantic Renewable Energy Association was hopeful about the continued rise of renewables remarking "the cost of solar electricity continues to drop, while the fuel, as always, is free."
The report describes the factors that caused rapid growth in each category around the country since 2009. These factors include innovative policies, improved technologies, and lower costs -- all of which suggest the potential for continued development in the years to come.
However, while policies in other states are leading to massive growth, the lack of comprehensive policies in the Commonwealth is leaving Pennsylvania middling in the pack, getting only 3% of its total energy from wind and solar today.
“We’re seeing some progress on solar and battery storage here in the Commonwealth,” said Cardoni, “but we’re falling behind and missing huge opportunities to protect our health and climate by taking clean energy to the next level. We must do more at the state and federal level to make Pennsylvania a clean energy leader. Given the progress we’ve seen in other states and the technology we have here at our fingertips, we know that much more can be done today.”
Event attendees and elected officials committed to continue working together to fight climate change and bring about a renewable energy future.
“By adopting smart, inclusive approaches, we can create millions of good jobs that will stay right here in the United States and help preserve our planet for generations to come,” said Rep. Wild.
PennEnvironment will continue to hold events like this throughout Pennsylvania to educate local residents and elected officials, and to increase activism and engagement in the fight to solve climate change and increase clean energy.
PennEnvironment is a citizen-based, statewide environmental advocacy organization working to ensure clean air, clean water, and protecting Pennsylvania’s great natural heritage. For more information about this and other PennEnvironment projects, visit www.PennEnvironment.org.