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Editor’s corner: Winds of change coming for grid

Renewable energy is not a comfortable topic in Pennsylvania. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the Commonwealth is “endowed with extensive fossil energy resources, is a leading East Coast supplier of coal, natural gas, electricity, and refined petroleum products to the nation.”

That is a reality that does not fit well with the direction our nation is moving in terms of power supply. Starting with President Barack Obama, the push for green energy became accelerated. It obviously slowed when President Donald Trump was in office — but current President Joe Biden will likely bring winds of change.

Coal, which is plentiful throughout the state and Ohio River Valley, is on the fast-track to becoming a fuel of the past. How that will impact this state in the next three years is unknown.

But we do know this: There is mounting pressure from Harrisburg and Washington to be cleaner.

As part of that effort, the Wolf administration released the 2020 Pennsylvania Clean Energy Employment Report last summer, showing that clean energy is a leading creator of quality jobs. His report noted the sector added 7,794 jobs in 2017-19, for an 8.7 percent average job growth rate, compared to 1.9 percent average overall job growth in the state.

“The Pennsylvania Clean Energy Employment Report comes at an opportune time, as government and industry leaders look to strengthen Pennsylvania’s workforce and economy in response to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gov. Tom Wolf said. “This detailed analysis of data and trends in clean energy employment in 2017-19 demonstrates the sector was a top job generator statewide, and shows which industries were hiring and looking for trained workers.”

His report noted the clean energy generation industry, solar energy workers made up the largest share of the work force: 35.4 percent, or 5,173 jobs. Solar jobs grew 8.3 percent in Pennsylvania in 2017-19, in contrast to a slight decline nationwide.

Americans here and across the nation watched in horror regarding the Texas crisis. No power meant no heat and lots of suffering.

It was not restricted to renewable energy, even though some turbines were not properly winterized. Overall, it highlighted a failure in the system.

That electrical system, it must be noted, needs back-up support when renewables fail. That is why coal needs to be considered going forward. In the northeast, the sun does not always shine and the wind is not always gusty.

What happened in Texas does not have to happen elsewhere. Somehow, fossil fuels — still being widely used — have to be a part of the discussion when the renewables go dark.

John D’Agostino is the editor of the Times Observer, The Post-Journal in Jamestown and the OBSERVER in Dunkirk. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call (716) 487-1111, ext. 253.

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