The adage “hindsight is 20/20” often applies to politics. Especially when a career in public service spans as many years as mine. It means it’s easy to know the right thing to do after something has happened, but it is hard to predict the future. I liked to think I could predict the future during my years as governor. And I think I got more things right than I did wrong. However, if I could turn back the clock, I’d have made some different choices as it relates to Pennsylvania’s nuclear power plants and their unique ability to protect against climate change.
Back in 2004, we passed a law in Pennsylvania called the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards, or AEPS. I was a leading proponent of AEPS inasmuch as it was designed to achieve two important policy goals of my administration: first, to establish Pennsylvania as a leader in alternative energy sources and therefore promote economic development and job creation in the commonwealth, and second, to help Pennsylvania lead the way in environmental stewardship by reducing the commonwealth’s reliance on fossil fuels and thus reducing Pennsylvania’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Pennsylvania also supports a significant number of wind energy jobs. In 2016, the American Wind Energy Association reported the total number of direct and indirect jobs supporting the wind industry in Pennsylvania was approximately 1,656. This included jobs at 27 in-state manufacturing facilities.
Pennsylvania has significant hydropower generating capacity as well. According to the National Hydropower Association, approximately 325 Pennsylvania businesses are part of the hydropower supply chain.
Nevertheless, while Pennsylvania is to be commended for all that we have achieved through AEPS in the promotion of carbon-free energy for the commonwealth, it is simply not enough – much remains to be done. I therefore encourage the General Assembly to be more aggressive in promoting further development of renewables: solar, wind, and hydro.
Alarmingly, what we have accomplished through AEPS so far is now at great risk of effectively being wiped out if the state’s nuclear power plants begin to shut down. Pennsylvania’s nuclear power plants generate 93 percent of our state’s carbon-free energy and 13 times more electricity than wind, solar, and hydropower combined. In fact, losing the Beaver Valley and Three Mile Island plants alone will negate five times the emission benefits of all the solar and wind power projects installed in Pennsylvania to date.