There was more to Pennsylvania’s electricity deregulation effort than just the reduction of cost-per-kilowatt-hour.
While competition was supposed to control prices, leaders also wanted ingenuity. They wanted to open up opportunities for renewable energy production services and enterprises, ranking the generation method and the power’s actual use on par with the importance of the billable rate.
During the restructuring agreement, the Pennsylvania Utility Commission created one entity for each major electrical-supply region in the state for the purpose of fostering renewable energy, clean energy and energy conservation.
In 1999, a private nonprofit called the Sustainable Energy Fund of Central Eastern Pennsylvania was created in PPL Electric Utilities’ territory. Today the SEF mission “is to assist energy users to strive for a future where energy is harvested, converted, distributed and utilized in a manner that allows all to meet their energy needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.”
It invests in businesses that share this vision.
The results have been positive in part because SEF assists companies in a variety of ways. Financing and education are its primary roles with occasional work done addressing regulatory issues.
80 PERCENT SAVINGS
SEF has made projects possible through grants. For example, the owners of a popular Allentown restaurant had their eyes on an LED lighting retrofit. However, it wasn’t until they learned about an SEF grant program that they began to get serious about it.
Jeff Fegley, president of Allentown Brew Works, said the resulting SEF-funded project – completed by local contractor Sitka Enterprises Inc. – “reduced our usage for lighting to about one-fifth of what was used before … a 77 to 80 percent savings.”
According to the Brew Works’ blog, at the time it was one of the largest lighting implementations in the restaurant industry worldwide. When asked what would have happened without the SEF investment, Fegley guessed, “We wouldn’t have done the project at the size we did.”