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Environment & Energy

Duquesne, Nonprofit Team Up to Host Energy Discussion

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It could be a big year for energy decisions; state and federal policies could affect everything from conservation to energy costs:

  • The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission is set to unveil the next phase of its Energy Efficiency program, which requires electricity distribution companies to implement energy conservation plans, later this month.
  • Later this year, courts will decide whether conservation programs should be run by the utilities who sell energy or the owners of the grid who distribute it.
  • And, the Environmental Protection Agency will finalize new carbon emissions standards this summer.

Duquesne University’s Center for Green Industries and Sustainable Business Growth and the Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance will discuss these issues and others at a free networking event Tuesday.

“There’s a lot going on in Harrisburg these days in energy policy and we’re there to let businesses…and others in that area know what’s going on,” Maureen Mulligan, policy director for the Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance, said.

On the state level, the PUC unanimously voted in October to explore stricter conservation guidelines for electric utilities as part of Act 129.

“Act 129 provides consumers, all consumers—residential, industrial and commercial consumers—access to various utility programs to reduce their energy,” Mulligan said.

The law requires the PUC to update its Energy Efficiency and Conservation program every five years; however, Mulligan said changes could lead to increased costs.

“Consumers are the ones that pay for these initiatives, as well as are exposed to either cleaner or dirtier air depending on the outcome,” Mulligan said.

Regionally, the courts are expected to rule this year whether another set of conservation programs should be handled by the states’ retail markets.

This decision will directly affect PJM Interconnection, the world’s largest energy grid operator. It spans 13 states, including Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia. Utilities want to run the program instead of PJM, but consumer advocates argue it will cost customers more money.

A circuit court has already ruled in favor of the utilities.

“The supreme court may end up hearing this case,” Mulligan said. “This is a big enough issue and involves billions of dollars in customer costs to consumers should the ruling by the circuit court…stay.”

Nationally, the EPA will introduce a series of carbon emissions regulations for new, modified and existing power plants sometime this summer.

The guidelines for modified and existing plants were proposed as part of the Clean Power Plan, which will set emissions goals for individual states. The states will also be required to come up with their own plans to reach the emissions targets.

States that fail to create their own plans will have to abide by a federal plan developed under the Clean Air Act.

The free energy conservation discussion begins at 4 p.m. in the Bayer Learning Center on the Duquesne University campus. Registration is available online.