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PA energy savings law a huge success, report finds

Demand for electricity has gone down, savings have gone up and jobs have been created, report finds.

In 2008, Pennsylvania enacted a law aimed at reducing the demand for energy, creating jobs and reducing pollution.

Pennsylvania utilities were supposed to implement programs to accomplish it. In this region, PECO has been paying people to let the utility curtail their air conditioner use on the hottest summer days. It's been giving people money to turn in their old, inefficient fridges for recycling. It's been offering rebates for super-efficient heating and cooling equipment. And it's been offering on-the-spot rebates in stores for more efficient light bulbs.

The upshot?

Wow, has it worked, concludes the PennFuture Energy Center for Enterprise and the Environment.

Earlier today, PennFuture released a detailed report by Optimal Energy, looking at the impact of the law, Act 129.

"The energy savings law is an unqualified success," said Courtney Lane, senior energy policy analyst for Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture), in a press release.

Electricity demand has dropped by 2,073 gigawatt-hours (GWh) – 41 percent greater than required by the law, the report found. As a result, families and businesses are saving $278 million annually. The state also gained 4,000 "job years" -- measured as one full-time job for one year). A for air pollution gains, the report estimates that the state has cut 23 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the lifetime of the installed energy efficiency measures, which it said is the same as taking four million cars off the road for a year.

"And the cherry on the top is that our electricity grid is becoming more stable, along with electricity prices, every year this program is in force," Lane said.

Act 129 required Pennsylvania electric utilities to reduce their overall electricity load by 1 percent by May 31, 2011 and 3 percent by May 31, 2013, and to reduce peak demand by 4.5 percent by offering electric customers a portfolio of cost-effective energy efficiency and conservation programs.

According to the PennFuture press release, Optimal's analysis of the Act 129 data through May 31, 2011 shows that every utility exceeded its first Act 129 goal of a 1 percent reduction in electricity consumption with the exception of West Penn Power.

The current Act 129 program expires on May 31, 2013, and PennFuture would like to see it continue.