Imagine a renewable energy facility that could produce enough electricity for Chester, Bucks, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties. The Chester County Commissioners brought that possibility a step closer by signing a memorandum of understanding to participate in the Southeastern Pennsylvania Regional Power Agreement Partnership.
The Commissioners are joining their neighboring counterparts in exploring the feasibility of a regional power purchasing agreement. The memorandum of understanding, approved at the Commissioners' most recent public meeting, calls for hiring a consultant to look at all the options.
The partnership will consider the benefits, implications, and economies of scale involved in combining the electric needs of multiple counties, municipalities, and other institutions and authorities, as well as the potential to pursue development of a large-scale renewable energy facility, to be operated by an outside company or entity.
“We have an obligation to find ways to fight the effects of climate change,” said Chester County Commissioners’ Chair Marian Moskowitz. “By our signing onto this plan with our neighboring counties, we hope to encourage other counties, municipalities and even institutions to join with us. The more partners we ultimately have, and the larger the electric capacity involved, the more competitive renewable electricity costs can be.”
Similarly, creating a larger renewable electricity demand would incentivize an energy developer to build a facility to feed electricity into the power grid, reducing Chester County’s and other partnership members’ energy costs. Another potential benefit of the partnership is the creation of green jobs and economic opportunity in southeastern Pennsylvania.
“Suburban Philadelphia counties all working together sends a message that something needs to be done to shift the power market to get more renewable energy facilities online, selling electricity made from non-fossil fuels,” said Commissioner Josh Maxwell. “We are eager to explore becoming part of that important evolution.”
Paul Spiegel, Director, Energy & Sustainability Services for Spotts, Stevens & McCoy, and Vice-President of the Chester County Environmental & Energy Advisory Board, voiced support for the renewable energy power purchase agreement at the Commissioners’ public meeting. “Our children and grandchildren are already asking why we are relying on non-renewable energy when there are so many ways to make energy renewable. It is important that we have an answer to their question, and to show that we are doing all that we can.”
The development of a large-scale renewable energy partnership could take several years to complete. The memorandum of understanding signed by the Commissioners is designed to start the process of collaborative planning. It does not commit Chester County or its partners to go beyond this first step, but all are hopeful the initial study will clear the way to move forward. The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission will serve as facilitator and convener of the power agreement partnership.
Chester County was recently included in the list of appropriations secured by Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, for funds to install 26 electric vehicle charging stations at 19 different County property locations, such as trailheads, parks, and County buildings. The stations would be funded by a $645,000 federal grant.
“The charging stations are another way in which the County is leading on climate-related issues and facilitating the transition to electric vehicles,” said Commissioner Michelle Kichline. “Looking down the road, if we can get to a point where those EV charging stations and the lights in our homes are powered by a renewable energy source, we would be making a great contribution to the environment.”
Chester County also leads the region with an award-winning open space preservation program that has preserved more than 143,000 acres of land protected as farms, forests, public parks and nature preserves, with proven economic, as well as environmental value. And earlier this year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency confirmed Chester County as a Green Power Partner, noting that it purchases enough green power annually to meet all of the County’s own electricity use.