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“PECO, Get Serious About Clean Energy for Everyone”: Groups Intervene in State Utility Commission Proceeding to Challenge “Business As Usual” Plan for Electric Service

By March 6, 2024No Comments

March 4, 2024

Community & Climate Advocates: “PECO, Get Serious About Clean Energy for Everyone”

Groups Have Intervened in State Utility Commission Proceeding to Challenge “Business As Usual” Plan for Electric Service

Dionne Watts-Williams
POWER Interfaith

Philadelphia, PA — POWER Interfaith (“POWER”), Vote Solar, Clean Air Council, Sierra Club, Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania, and PennEnvironment (collectively, the “Energy Justice Advocates”) filed a petition to intervene at the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (“PUC”) to challenge PECO’s “business-as-usual” electricity supply plan, which falls far short of meeting the urgent renewable energy and environmental justice needs of residents and communities.

PECO submitted its latest energy procurement proposal, also known as a “default service supply plan” to the Pennsylvania PUC in February. The proposal details how PECO plans to buy the electricity serving customers who do not affirmatively shop for alternatives to what PECO provides. The vast majority of residential customers do not shop for alternative sources of electricity, and customers who receive bill assistance cannot shop. Historically, the supply mix that PECO buys and wants to continue buying is almost entirely generated by burning fossil fuels and procured under short-term contracts that can be subject to significant price changes over time. “PECO has not listened to us about what we want in our electricity mix,” said Wendy Greenspan, Co-Chair of POWER’s People’s Energy Plan Campaign, “and any suggestion that we have to shop for clean energy is just a ‘let them eat cake’ kind of position. We are taking the major step of participating in this complicated regulatory proceeding to urge the Commission to demand better.”

“PECO must take responsibility for the fact that the electricity they buy to serve us is a major contributor to the climate crisis. The climate crisis threatens public health, community well being, and the economy. Their business-as-usual approach has remained unchanged for too long, and in our worsening climate it is economically and environmentally both imprudent and sinful,” said Rev. Michael Caine, Co-Chair of the POWER Interfaith Board, which works for racial and economic justice on a livable planet. The Campaign’s legal expert, Devin McDougall of Earthjustice, pointed out that PECO has a regulatory obligation to procure a “prudent mix” of contracts for supplying its customers, and the Campaign believes that short-term, fossil gas oriented contracts don’t cut it.

The People’s Energy Plan calls for three key changes to PECO’s short-sighted procurement planning process:

  • Fix the Mix: Engage in long-term contracts with renewable energy providers. This will help bolster the clean energy economy and make electricity more affordable for all Pennsylvanians. It will also help promote price stability and reduce the risk of sudden changes in electricity prices.
  • Democratize Energy: PECO must open up its procurement planning process and meet with and listen to stakeholders. The electricity that PECO provides (and the grid it maintains) must serve everyone’s needs for affordable clean energy, protect our climate, and build resilience to face the climate disruption we already face.
  • Lead, Don’t Follow: PECO must be a leader in the Philadelphia area’s clean energy future and commit to securing affordable clean energy for the region. PECO must stop ignoring the environmental and economic costs of its service plans to our health and communities. The longer PECO delays taking action on climate change the more it will cost—both in dollars and in lives.

PECO proposes four more years of its flawed approach, kicking the can down the road on climate and economic justice for the vast majority of its residential customers. That is unacceptable.

The People’s Energy Plan is a reasonable framework for a default service plan that truly reflects the urgency of the climate and energy affordability crises. The People’s Energy Plan Campaign is led by POWER Interfaith, a coalition of more than 250 congregations in Philadelphia, the Lehigh Valley and Lancaster. It is a statewide organizing movement for economic and racial justice on a livable planet. POWER’s Climate Justice and Jobs team holds a vision of energy democracy founded in affordability, renewability, fair labor, and health and safety for all. A network of environmental, community, and clean energy organizations have joined forces with POWER’s People’s Energy Plan Campaign to bring legal action against PECO and demand affordable, clean energy to everyone in southeast Pennsylvania.

Kartik Amarnath, Mid-Atlantic Regulatory Director of Vote Solar, said: “The data are clear that fossil fuels lead to excess death, not affordable energy. We must do away with the lie that clean energy and climate action are at odds with affordable utility bills. Renewables provide some of the cheapest and most resilient energy in the market. Fossil fuels have destroyed our life-sustaining ecosystems and pushed hazardous pollution, aging infrastructure, and incredibly volatile energy prices onto communities. It is a privilege to support POWER’s leadership in pushing for a People’s Energy Plan, where we can finally achieve a DSP that works for all
ratepayers in the Philadelphia metropolitan area.”

Eric Cheung, Acting Executive Director of Clean Air Council, said: “PECO must prioritize delivering cheap and abundant renewable power to our homes and businesses now rather than relying on dirty and antiquated fossil fuels. We are in the middle of a climate emergency and have no more time for foot-dragging or half-measures.”

Thomas Schuster, Director of Sierra Club’s Pennsylvania Chapter, said: “Pennsylvania’s clean electricity requirements are woefully inadequate to meet the demands of the climate crisis.

At the same time, the costs of solar power have gotten so low that it is now competitive with dirtier energy sources. The only thing preventing PECO from supplying more affordable solar energy to its customers is its antiquated procurement process that is biased towards traditional
fossil fueled power plants. We seek to modernize this process to benefit both our climate and customers’ wallets.”

Tonyehn Verkitus, Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility PA, said: “Customers have been pushing PECO to transition to renewable energy—as a default—for years. It’s past time for PECO to move to renewable sources of energy for our electrical supply. Communities across Pennsylvania are suffering because of the air and water pollution caused by the fossil fuel industry.”

David Masur, Executive Director of PennEnvironment, said: “PECO’s default energy supply plan is dirty and doesn’t deliver for our planet and Pennsylvania consumers. Today’s action by POWER Interfaith and their partner groups is a critical step to ensure a climate-safe future for our children, grandchildren and future generations.”