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Pennsylvania gets renewables

Marc Lefkowitz  |  11/14/07 @ 4:00pm

How did states like Pennsylvania deal with powerful, entrenched interests like the coal and electric industry when establishing a renewable energy economy?

"Our approach was to sit down eyeball-to-eyeball and suggest more profitable ways to burn coal," Daniel Desmond, Deputy Secretary, Pennsylvania's Office of Energy and Technology Development remarked at the Solar 2007 plenary on Tuesday. "We told them business as usual was not going to happen, but we also found new ways to inspire and engage them, not threaten them."

Pennsylvania included 'fluidized bed combustors' for waste coal as a Tier 2 program in the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard (the lion's share of rebates from the RPS go to Tier One programs in solar, wind and biomass. In PA's recently passed budget, for example, solar rebates received $200 million).

Marketing the safety and security features of renewables, such as a supply for back-up power can also help. "The solar PV on the governor's mansion provides three days of back up power, so it's about the protection of critical infrastructure," Desmond said.

Renewables could be considered a premium electric service like a Blackberry is to pay-as-you-go mobile phone service, he added.

Some of the world's largest corporations, like Johnson & Johnson, needed less arm twisting. The company's senior director for global energy, Dennis Canavan, explained that the health care giant worth $35 billion in annual sales, decided to minimize its energy exposure and invest $96 million in renewable energy projects. Taking advantage of the Renewable Energy Credits in California and New Jersey's RPS, Johnson & Johnson has installed 2.45-megawatts of solar PV on its buildings and is working on another 1.6-megawatts in those states.

"Our board decided we should reduce our carbon dioxide emissions and improve our security," said Canavan, who added that the company is signed to the U.S. Climate Action Partnership.

Other innovative projects include buying and transporting methane gas from a California municipal landfill to a nearby plant to power the building's heating and cooling. They also installed a boiler that runs off compressed waste wood and geothermal units ? both in Europe. How does Canavan account for the program? "We had a 16.8 percent reduction in our carbon emissions last year, and our sales were up $300 million."

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