Commentary

Joining RGGI will strengthen Pennsylvania’s recovery | Opinion

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By Donald Gilligan

Across the country, Americans are beginning to see signs of our economy reopening as we move past the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic. For the past year, so many of us have faced unprecedented challenges.

Across all sectors of the economy, millions have lost their jobs after far too many small businesses closed and others made dramatic cuts to stay afloat. For those that have weathered this storm, every opportunity for savings matters more than ever.

As communities across the country prepare to reopen this summer, state and local governments are exploring policies that will help rebuild local economies and create new, local jobs. Smart policies and programs that enable businesses to save money and reinvest in their operations will be essential to making this happen.

For Pennsylvania, one action the state can take now is to link with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a successful, bipartisan initiative designed to reduce carbon dioxide pollution from power plants and invest in low-carbon technologies under a predictable, market-based program, already embraced by 11 other states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.

NAESCO is an association of companies dedicated to modernizing public building infrastructure in the U.S. through performance contracting. During the last 25 years our member companies have implemented more than $60 billion of waste reduction, efficiency and renewable energy projects to federal, state and local government agencies.

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More than $1 billion of these projects have been in Pennsylvania. Among our projects in the state, NAESCO members have worked on lighting and retrofit projects at Franklin & Marshall College, energy performance upgrades at East Lycoming School District in Hughesville, and energy use management at Allegheny Technologies, Inc. Through these projects and more, our members have helped promote more efficient energy use in both public and private facilities across the state.

Through our work, we see firsthand how RGGI benefits businesses and the economy while also protecting the environment.

Linking to RGGI will deliver significant benefits to the state by driving investment and creating new jobs in renewable energy and energy efficiency—all while reducing pollution. The 11 other participating states are already reaping these benefits. Current RGGI states have raised nearly $3.8 billion for investment in clean energy cutting pollution and creating new, local jobs.

Joining RGGI will lead to more facilities taking steps to improve how they manage energy use and install more efficient equipment.

This is because revenue raised through RGGI can be used to scale up investments in renewable energy and expand Pennsylvania’s energy efficiency programs. Expanding energy efficiency opportunities, in particular, would greatly benefit the state’s business community. With the money saved through energy efficiency investments, businesses will have more money to expand their workforce and grow their business.

For businesses that have spent the past year short on cash, these savings can make a big difference in their bottom line. Energy efficiency programs are also important sources of job growth in local communities because energy efficiency jobs are inherently local and cannot be outsourced.

In addition, revenue raised through RGGI can be used to support communities affected by the clean energy transition and help those communities hardest hit by COVID-19 get back on their feet. This will ensure a more equitable economic recovery for all Pennsylvanians.

While some have pushed back against RGGI and question whether this is a good step for the state’s economy, RGGI’s decade-long history of success in reducing pollution and driving economic growth show the potential it has to help accelerate the state’s economy coming out of the pandemic.

This is an opportunity for Pennsylvania to support emerging sectors of the state’s economy and help all businesses reduce their energy costs. Improved building performance and the resulting cost savings is good for businesses and taxpayers.

Over the next several weeks, the Wolf administration  government and potentially the Pennsylvania Legislature will be examining the merits of Pennsylvania linking with RGGI.

I want to make sure they understand my perspective representing an association with members working on projects in current RGGI states: RGGI has the potential to grow Pennsylvania’s economy and revitalize local communities to be stronger and more resilient. We urge you to link with RGGI and maximize the opportunity this successful program presents for Pennsylvania businesses and communities alike.

Donald Gilligan is the president of the National Association of Energy Service Companies, an industry trade group. He writes from Washington, D.C.

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