Rendell Urges Lawmakers to Help Consumers Avoid High Energy Bills, Pass Energy Independence Strategy Now

RIDLEY TOWNSHIP – Speaking in Delaware County to a crowd of residents concerned about rising energy prices, Gov. Edward G. Rendell recently again called on the General Assembly to move quickly and pass his Energy Independence Strategy to help consumers save $10 billion on electricity costs, expand the use of renewable energy technologies, and boost the economy.

“Pennsylvanians are hearing the news that their electricity rates could jump by as much as 60 percent in the coming years and they are wondering how they’re going to cope at a time when they’re already paying nearly $4 per gallon at the pump,” said Gov. Rendell. “Unless we act now, higher electricity costs could cripple our families and our economy. It’ll be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

“By acting now, we will protect consumers from higher energy costs, we will grow our economy, and we will improve our environment by using more clean, renewable energy. The legislature has been considering this plan for the past year-and-a-half.”

Gov. Rendell unveiled the Energy Independence Strategy in February 2007 to protect consumers from double-digit increases in electricity rates that will come once rate caps that were put in place more than a decade ago expire. The plan will also leverage $850 million in new investments to attract $3.5 billion in alternative and renewable energy projects and reduce Pennsylvania’s dependence on foreign oil.

The Governor cited estimates by the state’s consumer advocate, Sonny Popowsky, who found that residential consumers in the five service territories where caps are still in place—PPL, MetEd, PECO, Penelec and West Penn Power—could pay $1.55 billion more than today’s rates for electricity by 2011.

“Rather than subjecting their customers to the high, volatile prices of the electricity market, my plan will obligate the utility companies to plan ahead and purchase their power through a truly competitive process that ensures the lowest possible rates,” said Gov. Rendell. “Additionally, this strategy will equip consumers with the tools and information they need to conserve electricity and use it in a more efficient manner, which will reduce demand and keep rates low.”

The Governor urged prompt action by the General Assembly on the following bills:
• House Bill 2201, which is awaiting a vote in both chambers, will require utilities to provide service to customers at the lowest reasonable rate. The bill will require utility service providers to procure power through a mix of short- and long-term contracts and spot market purchases, and obligate the Public Utility Commission to ensure that the procurement process is free of fraud, collusion or market manipulation.

• Special Session H.B. 1, which was adopted by the House on March 11, will provide funding to develop solar, wind and other advanced energy industries; make it easier for consumers to purchase and install solar panels; continue the state’s leadership in energy-efficient green buildings, and give consumers help in purchasing high-efficiency heating/cooling equipment and appliances.
• H.B. 2200 was passed by the House on Feb. 12 and will help consumers save on their energy bills by conserving electricity and using it more efficiently. Once fully implemented, H.B. 2200 will save consumers $1.3 billion by 2012 on their energy bills through conservation and bringing down the cost of electricity during peak load times — when demand is highest and electricity is most expensive.
• H.B. 1202, the Governor’s PennSecurity Fuels Initiative, has been awaiting action by the Senate since June. It requires nearly 1 billion gallons of biofuels to be produced and consumed in the commonwealth—an amount equal to what the state will import from the Persian Gulf by 2017.

Gov. Rendell said he was optimistic the General Assembly would move quickly on the Energy Independence Strategy and his other budget priorities following a meeting earlier this week with leaders of the four legislative caucuses.

“Monday’s meeting was productive,” said Gov. Rendell. “We all brought a spirit of cooperation to the table and expressed an interest in moving the agenda I’ve laid out to protect Pennsylvanians, stimulate our economy, and rebuild our infrastructure.

“There’s no reason we can’t accomplish a great deal before the legislature breaks for summer recess because many of these issues–health care, energy independence, economic stimulus and education funding—have been on the table for more than a year. These issues have been thoroughly debated. The time to act on them is now.”

Click here for more information on the Energy Independence Strategy.

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