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Energy policy in Pennsylvania

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Energy policy in Pennsylvania
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Quick facts
Energy department:
Office of Pollution Prevention & Energy Assistance[1]
State population:
12.8 million
Per capita income:
Energy consumption
Total energy consumption:
3,725 trillion BTU[2][3]
Per capita energy consumption:
292 million BTU
Energy spending
Total state energy spending:
$55,164 million
Per capita energy spending:
Residential natural gas price:
$15.59 per thousand cubic foot
Residential electricity price:
13.14 cents per kWh
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Energy PolicyEnergy policy in the United StatesFracking in PennsylvaniaEnergy and environmental news
Energy policy in Pennsylvania depends on geography, natural energy resources, how electricity is generated, how much energy consumers use, politics and the influence of groups such as environmental and industry organizations. Decisions by policymakers, such as state and local governments, utilities and regulatory agencies, affect all citizens economically and environmentally, and are generally geared toward providing reliable, affordable energy. The cost of energy affects not only home heating and electricity bills, and thus disposable income, but also economic growth, including jobs, investment and the cost of doing business in the state.

How energy is produced and consumed also has an impact on the environment and pollution. Energy policy in Pennsylvania is diverse. There is an emphasis is on creating a favorable atmosphere for businesses, innovation and on taking advantage of Pennsylvania's abundant natural resources. Recently, natural gas production in Pennsylvania has soared, as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking", and horizontal drilling have made shale gas in the Marcellus Shale economical to extract.[4]

Energy policy involves trade-offs between providing an affordable, consistent energy supply on the one hand, and limiting pollution and protecting the environment, on the other. How states attempt to balance these two differs between states, and often boils down to costs to consumers versus costs to the environment. This article provides general energy information about the state as the context within which energy policy is made, as well as information about major legislation and public and private groups that play a role in setting energy policy in the state.

See also: Energy policy in the United States for more information on energy policy.
See also: Fracking in Pennsylvania

Energy overview

State facts

Below are quick facts about Pennsylvania's energy climate.


  • is the fourth largest coal producing state in the nation, and the only state producing anthracite coal which has a higher heat value than other types of coal.
  • produces a third of its electricity from nuclear power.
  • is a net exporter of energy.
  • exports more coal than most other states in the nation.
  • is second in the nation in the total amount of electricity generated.
  • in 2011, was among the top users of biomass in the nation.
  • mandates that 18 percent of all electricity come from renewable sources by 2021.[5]

In Pennsylvania

  • about 40 percent of the total energy produced comes from coal.
  • most of the energy consumed is generated from coal.
  • the industrial sector consumes about a third of the total energy consumed.
  • 51 percent of homes use natural gas as a source of heat, 29 percent use electricity, and 20 percent use fuel oil.
  • renewable energies make up about 5 percent of total consumption of energy.[5]

Available energy resources

Pennsylvania has traditional energy resources in the form of oil, natural gas and coal. The state also produces a sizable quantity of nuclear power. The state's natural gas production has more than quadrupled in two years due to increased development of the Marcellus Shale. This development has allowed Pennsylvania to stop importing natural gas. Pennsylvania also hosts two of the three most productive underground coal mines in the nation. The western half of the state still has coal available.[5]

The renewable energy available in Pennsylvania has largely been produced by hydroelectric plants. Many of the facilities are over 50 years old, but many of these older plants have also been modernized. Biomass makes up the next largest part of the renewable energy produced in Pennsylvania. This biomass is usually in the form of municipal solid waste and landfill gas. In 2011, Pennsylvania was among the top users of biomass in the nation. The Appalachian Mountains in the southwest and northeast of the state also have wind resources suitable for development, and the first commercial wind farms in Pennsylvania began in 2000.[5]

Consumption and prices

Energy consumption in Pennsylvania
PA energy consumption chart.png

     Transportation       Residential     Industrial       Commercial
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As shown in the pie chart, most of the energy consumed in Pennsylvania is consumed by the industrial sector. The residential and transportation sectors each made up one-fourth of the total energy consumption as well. The commercial sector consumes the least amount of energy, less than 20 percent of the total. Gasoline, used in transportation, accounts for 50 percent of the petroleum consumed in the state. Per capita petroleum consumption in the state is about two-thirds lower than most other states.[5] Most of the energy consumed comes from coal, about 33 percent. About 21 percent of energy consumed comes from nuclear power. Generally the price of gasoline in the state tracks closely to the national average, but in 2013 the average state's price was below the national average for several months at the end of the year.[7][8] According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration's February 2014 report, the federal excise tax is 18.40 cents per gallon of gasoline and 24.40 cents per gallon of diesel fuel. In addition to that, Pennsylvania collects a total tax of 32.3 cents on every gallon of gasoline, gasohol and diesel fuel, which ranks it at the 15th highest in the United States.[9][10]

Comparisons tables

The table below compares Pennsylvania's consumption and spending for energy, as well as prices for gas and electricity, and carbon emissions to those of New York, which has similar population, resources and consumption needs because of climate and geography. Also given are the U.S. averages and the state rankings. All rankings are from highest to lowest, so, for example:

  • Pennsylvania's ranking of third in carbon dioxide emissions means that it emits more than New York, which has a ranking of 10th.
  • Likewise, per capita income Pennsylvania ranks 20th, means that per capita income is much lower than New York which ranks 15 spots above Pennsylvania at fifth in the nation.
  • The higher price of electricity in New York, the second highest in the nation, may result from the fact that Pennsylvania, ranking 17th in the nation, relies heavily on coal, a low cost energy source, while New York uses more renewable energy sources which tend to be more expensive.
  • Per capita consumption in Pennsylvania is much higher, a rank of 32nd, compared to New York's lower rank of 50th.
  • A large disparity exists between New York's per capita consumption rank of 50, and Pennsylvania's per capita consumption rank of 32 (meaning that per capita consumption in New York is lower than in Pennsylvania).
  • Pennsylvania ranks sixth in total population, New York ranks third, but the real difference is about seven million people.
  • Pennsylvania and New York have similar total spending ranks. New York is fourth, and Pennsylvania is fifth.
  • The two states rank similarly in the price of natural gas, although New York (16th) ranks slightly higher than Pennsylvania (13th) does.
  • The price of electricity in New York is significantly higher than in Pennsylvania. New York has the second highest electricity prices in the nation, and Pennsylvania ranks 17th.
  • New York and Pennsylvania have somewhat similar carbon emission rates. New York ranks tenth in the nation and Pennsylvania ranks third, but the absolute difference between the two states is about 80 million metric tons.

Pennsylvania mainly heats its homes with natural gas, and over 50 percent of homes are heated in this way. Electricity makes up a little over 20 percent, and fuel oil is close behind at 19 percent. Liquefied petroleum gas is used the least often, at about 4 percent.[11]

Consumption and Expenditures Comparisons Summary
Type PennsylvaniaNew YorkU.S. Figures
FigureU.S. Rank*FigureU.S. Rank*Totals
Population12.8 million619.7 million3313.9 million
Per Capita Income Average$43,61620$52,0955$42,693
Total Consumption3,725 trillion BTU73,615 trillion BTU897,301 quadrillion BTU
Per Capita Energy Consumption292 million BTU32185 million BTU50312 million BTU
Total Spending on Energy$55,1645$65,877 million4$1,394,088 million
Per Capita Spending on Energy$4,32929$3,37851$4,474
Price of Residential Natural Gas, dollar per thousand cubic feet$15.5916$16.3513$12.48
Price of Electricity, cents per kWh13.141718.89212.31
Total Carbon Dioxide Emissions, million metric tons (2010)256.63172.8105,631
*Rank is from highest to lowest.

A majority of homes are heated with natural gas in the state. Electricity is the next most common home heating sources, heating 20.7 percent of homes.[5]

See also: State Energy Rankings to compare all 50 states
Consumption of energy for heating homes in Pennsylvania
Source Pennsylvania 2011 U.S. average 2011
Natural gas 51% 49.5%
Fuel oil 19.7% 6.5%
Electricity 20.7% 35.4%
Liquid Petroleum Gases (LPG) 3.6% 5%
Other/none 5.1% 3.6%

Production and transmission

Pennsylvania produced almost 4,000 trillion BTU of energy in 2011. About 40 percent of the energy produced comes from coal, and about 35 percent is produced from natural gas. Pennsylvania is the second largest producer of electricity in the nation (only Texas produces more electricity). Over 3 percent came from what the U.S. Energy Information Administration classifies as 'other,' which is "assumed to equal consumption of all renewable energies except biofuels."[5]

Energy production by type in Pennsylvania, 2011
Type Amount Generated
(trillion BTU)
% of State % of USA
Crude oil 19.7 0.51% 0.16%
Natural gas 1,375.6 35.65% 5.19%
Coal 1,511.5 39.17% 6.85%
Nuclear 796.8 20.65% 9.64%
Biofuels 15.6 0.4% 0.81%
Other 139.3 3.61% 1.95%

Eleven of the state's electricity utilities are regulated by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC). These eleven companies serve the majority of the state. However the rural electrical cooperatives, many of which are owned and operated by cities, are regulated by the Pennsylvania Rural Electric Association (PREA).[12] These cooperatives serve about 4 percent of the total state population.[13] The transmission of the energy in Pennsylvania is managed by the Independent System Operators and Regional Transmission Council (ISO/RTO).[14] Individual electrical companies also play a part in maintaining the lines and means of transmission.[15]

Much of the electricity generated in Pennsylvania is from coal and nuclear generators. Pennsylvania has five nuclear plants, and was the site of the first commercial nuclear power plant in the United States. Pennsylvania is an important supplier for other states in the northeast region of the nation.[5]

Where electricity comes from in Pennsylvania[16]
Type Amount generated (MWh) % of state** % of U.S.**
Petroleum-fired 8 0.05% 0%
Natural gas-fired 3,880 24.76% 0%
Coal-fired 5,271 33.64% 0%
Nuclear 5,875 37.49% 0%
Hydroelectric 146 0.93% 0%
Other renewables 438 2.79% 0%
Total net electricity generation 15,671 100% 0%
**Note: Because the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) does not include all of a state's energy production in these figures, the EIA totals do not equal 100 percent. Instead, we have generated our own percentages.

Energy policy

Policy Issues
Energy policy in Pennsylvania is diverse. The main focus is on creating a favorable atmosphere for businesses, innovation and utilizing Pennsylvania's abundant natural resources.
See also: Fracking in Pennsylvania

Energy policy is made, executed and influenced by many organizations, both public and private, and is codified in the laws and regulations of the state. Each state’s energy policy involves trade-offs in which energy production and prices are weighed against environmental concerns and efficiency. Energy policy in Pennsylvania is diverse. The main focus is on creating a favorable atmosphere for businesses, innovation and on taking advantage of Pennsylvania's abundant natural resources. The state sums up its own policies as "all of the above." The government also promotes energy independence in order to provide security for its people.[17] Pennsylvania ranks 19th in the list of energy efficient states according to the American Council for and Energy-Efficient Economy.[18]

Pennsylvania has a Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS), which is similar to the Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) used in other states. The requirement is that 18 percent of the energy provided by utility companies, and consumed by Pennsylvanians, will be provided for through alternative energies by 2021. The difference between Pennsylvania's AEPS requirements and the typical RPS goals are the qualifying technologies. Pennsylvania counts energy sources that most would consider renewables, such as solar and wind, but it also counts energy consumed by more efficient appliances.[19][20][21][22]

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) is a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving energy efficiency policy in the United States. Each year, they rank each state by their energy efficiency policies. Pennsylvania ranked 19th, with a score of 22 out of 50 points.[23] There are differing estimates about the economic impact of these mandates in terms of costs and how they may affect prices and jobs, as well as the impact on the environment and pollution. Thus, for example, there are many new studies of what is called the "rebound effect" which refers to the fact that "some of the theoretically estimated gain in energy efficiency will be eroded as consumers consume additional goods and services."[24] The Institute for Energy Research attributes the higher than average price in Pennsylvania in part to the RPS standards.[25]

Major legislation

  • S.B. 1030 created Pennsylvania's Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS), which is a Renewable Standard Portfolio (RPS). The bill mandates that electric distribution companies and electric generation companies supply 18 percent of their electricity from alternative sources by 2021. Technologies that qualify include solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, wind, biomass and anaerobic digestion.[26]
  • Executive Order 2004-12 requires state agencies to purchase energy star appliances when economical and consistent with life-cycle costs, and work to reduce energy consumption in state owned buildings. The initiative reportedly reduced energy consumption in state buildings by 10 percent annually.[27]
  • As part of its Energy Efficiency Resource Standards the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission enacted Act 129 in 2008. The act required that electric distribution companies (EDC) decrease consumption by 1 percent by 2011. After meeting this goal, phase two of the act was put into effect which requires the EDCs to meet a 2 percent cumulative savings by 2016 for consumers. The act also required that utility companies submit plans with the Public Utilities Commission in order to increase their energy efficiency standards.[28]
  • Title 73 Pennsylvania Statutes, Chapter 18E, Section 1647.3 allows for grants to people who invest in natural gas vehicles. Grants can pay for purchase or conversion of vehicles into natural gas vehicles.[29]
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State energy policy

State fracking policy

Energy policy terms

Fracking in the U.S.

Energy use in the U.S.

Energy policy in the U.S.

State environmental policy

Energy and Environmental News

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Government agencies and committees

  • The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission works to balance the needs of consumers and utilities in order to ensure safe and reliable utility services at reasonable rates. PUC fosters new technologies and innovations and competitive markets in an environmentally sound manner.[30]
  • Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection is responsible for administering Pennsylvania's environmental laws and regulations. The department works to protect the environment, while also promoting energy technology and efficiency.[31]
  • The Pennsylvania Office of Consumer Advocate (OCA) is a state agency that represents the interests of utility consumers in Pennsylvania. The OCA generally represents consumers in front of PUC and lobbies on their behalf.[32]
  • The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources oversees all state forests and parks. The department is managed by the Pennsylvania Secretary of Conservation and Natural Resources. The department is responsible for the State Parks Bureau, the Forest Bureau, the Topographic and Geological Survey Bureau, the Recreation and Conservation Bureau, the Facility Design and Construction Bureau, and the Office of Conservation Science.[33]

Major organizations

  • The Pennsylvania Rural Electric Association (PREA) manages some of the locally owned utilities in Pennsylvania. It is a non-profit, service organization that works to maintain the economic health of rural communities by providing jobs and contributing to the overall quality of life.[34]
  • PennFuture works to reduce pollution, stop environmental damages from mining, and provides free legal services to help protect the environment. The organization lobbies for increased environmental protection regulations and against mining and other energy corporations.[35]
  • ActionPA has worked with communities on renewable energies since 1995. The organization works to educate the community through internships and speaking events. The organization fights against corporate power and works to ensure that ordinary people have a voice in environmental regulations.[36]
  • Citizen Power is a non-profit 501(c)(3) company that has worked towards affordable and clean energy since 1998. The group provides education through original research and direct educational services to the public. The group also participates in the legal proceedings and influences legislation.[37]

In the news

This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the term "Pennsylvania+Energy+Policy"

All stories may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of the search engine.

Pennsylvania Energy News Feed

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See also

External links


  1. Department of Environmental Protection, "Office of Pollution Prevention & Energy Assistance," accessed March 17, 2014
  2. These figures come from the U.S. Energy Information Administration's State Profiles and Energy Estimates, Pennsylvania Overview. Statistics for population and per capita income are for the year 2012; consumption and spending estimates are for 2011; and prices are for October 2013. Updated pricing information is available on the state's EIA profile. Prices will be updated on this page biannually.
  3. U.S. Energy Information Administration, "Pennsylvania Overview," accessed February 5, 2014
  4. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, “Pennsylvania's Energy Plan,” January 2014
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 U.S. Energy Information Administration, "Pennsylvania State Energy Profile," December 18, 2013
  6. This chart depicts the state's energy consumption as reported by the EIA for 2011. Click the image to enlarge.
  7. Gas Buddy, "Historical Gas Charts," accessed February 26, 2014
  8. To compare current gasoline prices in Pennsylvania to the U.S averages, go to GasBuddy.com
  9. U.S. Energy Information Administration, "Petroleum Marketing Monthly," February 2014
  10. The ranking comes from the Tax Foundation website accessed February 14, 2014
  11. U.S. Energy Information Administration, "Pennsylvania Profile Analysis," updated December 18, 2013
  12. Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, “Electricity,” accessed February 26, 2014
  13. Pennsylvania Rural Electric Association, "The Cooperative Story,” accessed February 26, 2014
  14. Independent System Operators and Regional Transmission Council, “PJM Interconnection,” accessed February 26, 2014 (dead link)
  15. PPL Electric Utilities, “Transmission,” accessed February 26, 2014
  16. These figures come from the EIA State Profiles and Energy Estimates U.S. Energy Information Administration, "Pennsylvania Overview," accessed February 5, 2014
  17. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, “Pennsylvania's Energy Plan,” January 2014
  18. American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, "Pennsylvania," accessed February 27, 2014
  19. Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency, “Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard,” September 9, 2012
  20. According to a report called "The Status of Renewable Electricity Mandates in the States," by the free-market Institute for Energy Research, the cost of electricity in states with RPS were on average 38 percent higher in 2010 than in states without a RPS.
  21. Institute for Energy Research, "The Status of Renewable Electricity Mandates in the States," accessed March 24, 2014
  22. Manhattan Institute, "The High Cost of Renewable-Energy Mandates," February 2012
  23. American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, "State Energy Efficiency Policy Database," accessed February 27, 2014
  24. Scientific American, "How bad is the Rebound from Energy Efficiency Efforts?," May 21, 2013
  25. Institute for Energy Research, "Pennsylvania RPS," accessed February 27, 2014
  26. Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency, “Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard,” September 9, 2012," accessed February 26, 2014
  27. Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency, “Energy Management and Conservation in State Facilities,” July 11, 2012," accessed February 26, 2014
  28. American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, "Pennsylvania," accessed February 27, 2014
  29. U.S. Department of Energy, "Pennsylvania Laws and Incentives," accessed February 27, 2014
  30. Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, “About the PUC,” accessed February 26, 2014
  31. Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, “About DEP - Mission Statement,” accessed February 26, 2014
  32. Pennsylvania Office of Consumer Advocate, “Who We Are,” accessed February 26, 2014
  33. Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, "DCNR at a glance," accessed June 14, 2011
  34. Pennsylvania Rural Electric Association, “About Us,” accessed February 26, 2014
  35. PennFuture, "About Us," accessed February 27, 2014
  36. ActionPA, "Homepage," accessed February 27, 2014
  37. Citizen Power, "About Us," accessed February 2014