Clean energy pathway creates jobs

JOHNSTOWN, Pennsylvania — A new decarbonization pathway for the 10-county region of southwestern Pennsylvania would boost employment and reduce harmful, climate-warming emissions more effectively and at a lower cost than other pathways based on natural gas resources paired with carbon capture technology, according to a new report.

The analysis, produced by Strategen for the Ohio River Valley Institute, focuses on the power sector as the backbone of the region’s clean energy transition, leveraging non-emitting resources including wind, solar, and legacy nuclear, energy efficiency upgrades, increased electrification, and energy imports to minimize the need for polluting fossil fuels while maximizing emission reductions and job growth.

“Our decarbonization pathway, the first to model a renewables-based energy transition in the 10-county Western Pennsylvania region, affords real opportunities for job growth and reduction in climate-warming emissions,” said Joanne Kilgour, executive director of the Ohio River Valley Institute. “It’s also the only pathway that places our region on track to meet International Panel on Climate Change goals of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celcius and rein in the worst effects of severe climate change.”

The Clean Energy Pathway:

Cuts CO2 emissions in the power sector by 92% by 2035 and 97% by 2050, placing the region on track to limit global warming to 1.5°C by 2050 in accordance with international climate goals.

Supports the creation of 12,416 jobs by 2035 and 15,353 jobs by 2050 via efficiency expenditures and residential bill savings.

Yields annual environmental and health benefits of more than $2.5 billion by 2035 and $4.2 billion by 2050.

Costs 13% less than a pathway reliant on natural gas and carbon capture technologies.

Strategen’s in-house dispatch model evaluated data on localized hourly demand, the potential for renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements, import transmission capacity, and cost forecasts to simulate the operation of the electric grid and determine the necessary resource mix for the region, with limited contributions from fossil generation to ensure reliability.

The pathway achieves ambitious, cost-effective emissions reductions and economic benefits by:

Developing local clean energy resources, including the region’s rich potential for wind, solar, and hydropower generation, as well as energy storage, to balance load and maintain reliability.

Heavily electrifying the region’s transportation and building sectors, which can cut sectoral emissions by 95% by 2050.

Making robust energy efficiency improvements that will reduce regional electricity load by an average of 2.6% per year through 2050.

Retiring all coal-fired power plants and most gas-fired plants by 2035. Selected gas plants may be kept online as capacity or peaking resources.

Taking advantage of low-cost energy imports from the wider regional market, including regions rich in wind and solar potential.

Taking advantage of federal funding and incentives, including those provided by the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

“Southwestern Pennsylvania, which has a long history of fossil fuel production and use in power generation, is approaching an inflection point,” Joe Goodenbery, a Senior Manager at Strategen, said. “We hope that these findings inform the discussion and help guide the region toward embracing a clean energy transition that promises to greatly benefit Pennsylvanians economically, socially, and environmentally — all at a lower cost than doubling down on fossil fuels and expensive investments in carbon capture.”

“Southwestern Pennsylvania and Appalachia must join the rest of the nation and the world in decarbonizing. The question is whether we should do it at immense cost and with only partial effectiveness by doubling down on natural gas and coal or by embracing true clean energy resources that will maximize emission and pollution reductions, cost less, and deliver job growth and prosperity. The Clean Energy Pathway answers that question.” Sean O’Leary, Senior Energy Researcher with the Ohio River Valley Institute added.

The Ohio River Valley Institute is an independent, nonprofit research and communications center founded in 2020. We equip the region’s residents and decision-makers with the policy research and practical tools they need to advance long-term solutions to some of Appalachia’s most significant challenges. We believe the Ohio River Valley is a place where communities can thrive by investing in, rather than exploiting, local resources, and we work to improve the region’s economic performance and standards of living by charting a course for shared prosperity, clean energy, and more equitable civic structures.

Strategen advises and empowers leading organizations — utilities, government agencies, NGOs, and industry clients — to design innovative, practical solutions that capture the promise of a clean energy future, strengthen resilience and adaptability, and are equitable, collaborative, and impactful. Headquartered in Northern California, and with offices across the western U.S. and in Australia, Strategen’s mission-driven experts leverage a global perspective and market-leading capabilities to deliver novel, high-impact, stakeholder-aligned approaches across the policy, regulatory, and market design spheres that sustainably accelerate the deployment of low-carbon energy systems. Strategen’s expertise spans corporate strategy, energy system planning, policy and regulatory innovation, and multi-stakeholder engagement. It takes an integrated, multidisciplinary approach, informed by core values of intellectual honesty, humility, sustainability, diversity, and inclusion.


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