Brian Kauffman: Embrace ‘advanced energy’ to put more Pennsylvanians to work and lower pollution

Brian Kauffman - Contributing Columnist | August 26th, 2015 10:35 am

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama released the Clean Power Plan, guiding states to reduce emissions from power plants. For Pennsylvania, this could revolutionize the ways in which we produce and consume energy, and usher in an advanced energy economy that creates thousands of new jobs and spurs innovation.

Our state leaders must seize on this opportunity.

State and federal policies have always fostered and influenced the direction of our nation’s energy economy. Here in Pennsylvania, policies and subsidies have long favored fossil fuels. As a result, we not only claim the title of being the nation’s third largest energy producer, but also the dubious distinction of being the nation’s third largest polluter.

Yet few Pennsylvanians know that recent state policy has brought to life a new and rapidly growing advanced energy economy. It’s an economy that helps businesses and homeowners invest in money-saving, energy-efficient building improvements, as well as innovative advanced energy technologies.

In fact, a recent study by Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance and E2 found that 4,200 advanced energy companies currently do business in Pennsylvania, employing over 57,000 state residents. And those numbers continue to grow. The energy businesses in our state range from local “mom and pop” companies to national and multinational firms, all of which have specifically chosen to work in the Keystone State for our smart, forward-thinking energy policy.

We must build on this momentum to continue growing this economy, transforming our energy infrastructure to put more Pennsylvanians back to work.

The Clean Power Plan is our newest and best opportunity to do just that. The plan sets achievable goals for each state to reduce power plant pollution and gives states the flexibility to meet those targets through customized strategies. Our state leaders have an important choice: continue with more of the same technologies of the past, or spur development of a new generation of energy technologies that will deliver a host of benefits to Pennsylvania.

By making use of technologies and services such as energy efficiency, advanced energy technologies, demand response and energy storage, Pennsylvania can lower energy costs, improve reliability and increase consumer choice as it reduces emissions.

A focus on energy-efficiency measures will not only save consumers money, but also will create jobs.

After operating for less than four years in Pennsylvania, one of our member companies with the Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance helped Pennsylvania customers save nearly $45 million on their electric bills. As a result, the company grew, workers have good-paying local jobs and thousands of Pennsylvania families have lower energy bills and more money in their pockets.

Another Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance company helped Pennsylvania’s large commercial and industrial businesses realize significant energy savings through more than 3,500 energy-efficiency projects, making these companies more profitable while also permanently reducing statewide energy demand.

Yet another started from the ground up in Pennsylvania, opening its doors here with only six employees and quickly growing to its current staff of more than 30 workers.

The list goes on. And while each company is unique, the theme is the same. Smart advanced energy policies are attracting business to our state and reducing energy costs – a win-win for businesses and residents alike.

We’ve only begun to scratch the surface of our full potential and must do more to build upon this positive momentum. We urge Gov. Tom Wolf and state lawmakers from both parties to make advanced energy solutions the cornerstone of Pennsylvania’s energy vision.

Brian Kauffman

Contributing Columnist

Brian Kauffman is executive director of the Philadelphia-based Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance. For information, visit