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This is What Energy Democracy Looks Like

When you sign up for electricity from PECO, how much of that energy is coming from renewable sources like solar? Although almost 80% of approximately PECO’s 1.6 million customers are on this default plan, a very tiny percent of those people probably know what the makeup of that energy plan is, that is, what percent of power for their home is coming from coal, gas, nuclear, solar or other sources. But while the number of people advocating for more renewable power in PECO’s default plan has skyrocketed over the last two times PECO has submitted its plan for approval, the committed proportion for solar energy in that plan has remained…a very tiny percent. Specifically half of one percent.

Approximately every four years, PECO has to get the plan for how it procures its default service approved by the Pennsylvania Utility Commision. Four years ago, the mix of energy PECO had in its default service procurement was only shown to be .5% from solar power. Despite outcry from customers at the public hearing that the PUC hosted in 2020 - the first time ever that the PUC had hosted a public hearing on PECO’s default service where customers were able to speak - the PUC approved that procurement plan. Now PECO has submitted its plan for the 2025-2029 period, and it has the same proportion of energy coming from solar.

Doubling the opportunity for input from the single hearing four years previous, last week the PUC hosted two public hearings - one telephonic and one in person - to solicit PECO customer input. These hearings generated a lot of passion, lasting over 3 hours each, with 35 people testifying on the phone and 46 in person. This is over twice the number of people who testified in 2020 (35). For a look into this process, you can read coverage in the Philly Voice or watch the entirety of the FOUR HOUR in person hearing on PSR PA’s instagram. However, since not every customer who is concerned about the lack of renewable energy in PECO’s default service is able to join a telephonic or in person hearing, others prepared written comments to be shared publicly. You can scroll down or click here to see those comments, which reflect the overwhelming message of those who shared last week: that PECO’s proposed default service plan is harmful for our climate, and as we see the cost of solar decline, PECO is leaving (ratepayer) money on the table as well.

Officials also weighed in, with 29 Pennsylvania senators, representatives, and municipal officials signing a letter to PECO’s CEO that urged “dramatically increasing the portion of PECO’s energy supply that is procured from renewable energy.” You can read that letter here.

PSR PA is one of six organizations legally intervening in the process by which the Pennsylvania Utility Commission approves PECO’s default service energy procurement, alongside allies POWER Interfaith, Sierra Club, Vote Solar, Clean Air Council, and PennEnvironment, together represented by Earthjustice. 

Paul Leonard, Maple Glenn

Retired Township Manager and Perkasie Borough Public Electricity Manager

I would like to see the amount of clean renewable power in PECO’s electricity mix increase from

the current 6% to the maximum amount practically possible by 2030. This is achievable if the

full spectrum of existing technology is used, including solar, wind, battery, virtual power plants

and reconductoring. It is the responsible thing to do and it is also economically efficient.

As a previous borough manager of a public electricity distribution system in Bucks County PA, I

became aware of the large amount of money that an electricity distribution system could create.

As a non-profit public entity, our electric distribution rates were below those of PECO and PPL

AND we had excess funds that could be used for the operations of the government AND we

could lower taxes. For a city manager, this was an extremely fortunate situation. We were able

to provide more reliable electric service with fewer and shorter outages. We also could fund

excellent roads, parks, swimming pools and libraries because our residents owned the electric

lines. They could pay their bill in person, talk to a live person on the phone when there was a problem, get an accurate estimate of the outage time and vote out the councilmembers if they

were unsatisfied with the electric system’s management.

When a private corporation provides the electricity, you are sacrificing a lot of service and

money. It seems time for the for-profit electric corporations to remember that they are granted

monopoly status to better serve the genuine needs of the public, not to prioritize their investors.

I feel that serving the public means listening to their requests for quality electric service, and in

2024, this means electricity powered by lots of clean modern renewable energy.

Cathy Leonard, Maple Glen

We need our electricity to be supplied with as much nonpolluting renewable electricity as

possible, and as soon as possible. I am very disheartening at the extremely low rate of 6%

renewable energy currently offered by PECO as the default electricity selection. I would like to

see the amounts of renewable electricity in PECO’s electricity mix increase by 6% each year.

This rate of emission reductions would be in line with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate

Change recommendations and the US government’s commitment of a Nationally Determined

Contribution of greenhouse gas reductions of 45% by 2030. Because I am concerned that

global warming is a serious threat to us all, I have educated myself on the causes and solutions.

I have come to the conclusion that our electricity system is both a serous contributor to the

problem but also a source of solutions.

I am surely not alone is expecting that a public monopoly should fulfill the wishes of the public.

In the December 13, 2023 survey of the general public in Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia

metropolitan area by the Yale Center for Climate Communication we find:

80% of residents think that corporations should do more to address global warming

74% think that fossil fuel companies should be required to pay a carbon tax

61% think that local officials should do more to address global warming.

Source: Yale Climate Opinion Maps 2023. Search by state and zip code in Tools and Interactives at

The amount of carbon dioxide, natural/methane gas and other pollutants that are being released

by PECO is contributing to the brown haze that hangs over our city and enters our lungs, sickening us. These pollutants have been found to cause heart disease, stroke, asthma and

dementia. In the summer, I need to check the ozone and particulate matter concentrations to

see if it is safe for me to exercise outdoors. If PECO stopped polluting our air by employing near

100% clean electricity, I might be able to go outside with confidence that I was not harming my

health. With the increase of electric vehicles in our area, it seems only fair that PECO would

match these personal investments in clean air by investing in clean electric power for these cars.

As a customer of PECO, an investor owned public utility, I feel that the high electricity prices are

not justified by the antiquated and polluting electricity generation, transmission and distribution

that we receive. PECO is receiving outstanding guaranteed profit for subpar planning, clean

electricity investment and social responsibility to customers and the economy of the

Philadelphia region. We should not wait until a Texas type disaster strikes Philadelphia in a prolonged heat wave and kills dozens to start reinvesting in our aging infrastructure by building

renewable energy, updated transmission lines and modern operations.

As regular people like myself become more informed about the negative impacts of fossil fuel

electricity, they are finding ways to reduce electricity use. This is not a good business model for

a corporation selling electricity. It is does not encourage people to electrify their homes when

they realize that the electricity is dirty.

I have numerous customer and operational needs that I would like PECO, PJM and the PUC to

address in an urgent timeline to bring our outdated electricity generation, transmission and

distribution system up to the exponentially increasing load demands. Because renewable

electricity generation is less expensive than other type of generation, this is the most

economical and responsible path forward. Planning should begin immediately for retiring

polluting and expensive fossil fuel plants and replaced them with more economical solar and

wind generation. Utility scale battery storage could be employed to balance increasing

renewable electricity resources. The currently installed, but underutilized, smart meters in the

PECO area could assist in shaving the peak load to enable the retirement of fossil fuel plants.

Virtual power plants could be employed extremely quickly. Reconductoring of congested

transmission lines could reduce prices to the PECO area.

The failure of PECO to plan for increased renewable electricity is preventing the city and state

from attracting the growing number of clean energy businesses that are planting their roots this

year in other states, leaving Philadelphia and Pennsylvania behind. This may be especially

critical to the operation of the upcoming clean hydrogen hubs. We may have already missed

the boat on establishing a new clean industry in PA, but we could still try to get on board this

year. It really seems like it’s now or never.

Victoria Alfred-Levow, Philadelphia

I stand with thousands of PA consumers in encouraging PECO to build solar and wind energy

into its default service plan. Everyone in the state has to pay utility bills every month, and every

resident has to live on this planet every day. Bills won’t change, but how we pay them - in the dollars and cents way and the long-term environmental cost way - MUST change.

Pastor Jonny Rashid, West Philadelphia Mennonite Fellowship

PECO’s new DSP for the next 4 years is dangerous. The majority of PECO’s power is fossil fuel

generated and PECO will continue to emit millions of tons of CO2, pollute our air, aggravate our

asthma, and cause our electricity prices to fluctuate, unless they are forced to change.

In a recent interview, PECO’s response to generating less power from fossil fuels was “PECO

will work to ensure the electricity is purchased a the lowest price possible and in a way that will

guard against price volatility for our customers” thus implying that the price of renewable power

is neither cheap nor stable. This is not true.

Do a quick search of “price of solar power vs natural gas” and any article less than 2 or 3 years

old states solar generated power is unquestionably less expensive than fossil fuel generated power. In fact, the first article that appeared for me was an article in Bloomberg News stating

“Solar Is Now 33% Cheaper Than Gas Power in the US. Natural gas's dominance as power-plant fuel in the US is fading fast as the cost of electricity generated by wind farms and solar projects tumbles.” 33% cheaper!

What about price volatility? The sun is going to shine uninterrupted for the next 5 billion years,

give or take a few. And as long as the sun shines, the wind also will blow, same 5 billion years.

Build a solar farm or a wind farm and it will generate power day after day after day, same cost,

regardless of labor strike, political turmoil, natural disaster, war, fuel tax, carbon taxes, you

name it. The price of sun and wind is the same. Always. Zero. Where’s the price volatility in

this? This sounds to me like a good candidate for predictable, long-term, stable power prices.

Can the same argument be made about natural gas prices, that they aren’t going to spike in 6

months when a supply or production or political event throws the energy markets into turmoil?

Of course not. That is why power generators using fossil fuels won’t sell long term contracts.

They don’t know what their costs are going to be tomorrow, never mind 6 months or a year from

now. If anybody wants an example of a commodity with a volatile price profile, fossil fuels are

the poster child example!

PECO, is signing long-term power contracts for power with a stable, predictable cost profile,

arguably 33% less expensive than short term contracts, really going to cause higher, unstable

prices? I fail to see the logic of your argument.

Eve Gutman, Philadelphia

My name is Eve Gutman, I live in Southwest Philadelphia, and I'm a PECO customer. The

energy that PECO uses in its default service is important to me because I cannot afford to buy

my electricity from an alternative provider. I do not want my public utility to be purchasing

energy that is poisoning and killing people, like coal, oil, and methane gas are, on my behalf. I’m

asking the PUC to ensure that PECO dramatically increases the percentage of energy it

procures from renewable sources like wind and solar and that it negotiates longer-term

contracts, thus unlocking more affordable wind and solar energy. 

I’m familiar with the many-years-long grassroots campaign calling on PECO to increase its

procurement of local solar energy. So many concerned citizens have gotten involved in those

efforts and the work has been sustained for so long because this is such an important issue for

many PECO customers. We want PECO to have a procurement plan in place that is truly in our

best interest -- for our health and safety now and in the future. Those of us who have spoken up

at recent hearings or submitted written testimony are just the tip of the iceberg; many more want

affordable renewable energy than those who were able to show up to hearings or those who

knew about submitting written testimony. 

For all of us, all of them, and all PECO customers, PECO must do much better with increasing

the amount of renewable energy it procures in its default service.    

Barbara Atkinson

On this Earth Day, I’m reflecting on the many years since the first Earth Day in 1970. I attended

Temple University in the late 1970s, became fascinated with solar and renewable energy

through an undergraduate class, and majored in Engineering Technology to follow this interest. I

worked in the fields of solar and energy-efficiency for the rest of my career and obtained a

Master’s degree in Energy and Resources from UC Berkeley along the way. I’ve also served on

several volunteer committees and boards for low-income energy programs, environmental

justice, and green electricity.

I attended the PUC hearing on PECO’s Default Service Plan on April 18th. I support the Energy

Advocates’ position that PECO incorporate a substantially higher portion of solar and wind in its

energy supply portfolio. And I advocate the use of long-term contracts to procure the most

economical energy sources for its customers, which economists have shown would favor

renewable energy.

We’ve known for all these decades since the “Energy Crisis” of the 1970s that our society

needed to needed to move toward meeting our energy demand – including electricity - by more

efficient technologies and practices and supplying the rest with renewable energy. Here is an

example from that Temple class on energy fundamentals over 40 years ago. Among the range

of energy sources, fracked gas was seen as one of the most unrealistic and highly wasteful

methods to squeeze the last drops of fossil fuel from the earth. Developing more sustainable

energy sources would have avoided having to resort to this unfortunate technology. And in the

larger picture, the multiple examples of human-caused climate change would not be so heavily

upon us. It’s way past time for regulators and utilities to step up to turn this crisis. I urge the

PUC to make the right decision to fix our energy mix now!

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