Build a Sustainable Future
“we’re never going to see a large coal company like before where they are employing 5,000 or 6,000 people in the coal industry so we see the need to diversify”
- -Chief Economic Development Officer, Dana Henry, on coal prospects in Indiana County, (PA Business Center).
It is clear and compelling that our community must move forward with a solid plan toward a resilient, job-generating economy that provides for our health and well-being for decades to come.
We, the undersigned, urge the Indiana County Commissioners to convene an Indiana County Task Force charged with drafting an Action Plan for establishing a Sustainable Economy that includes renewable energy industry and infrastructure.
Dear Indiana County Commissioners:
As you know all too well, our region’s economy has changed dramatically over the last few years, especially as a result of the marked decline in coal production, and experts in industrial development do not expect that coal will make a comeback. As a recent issue of PA Business Center reports, quoting Chief Economic Development Officer Dana Henry on coal prospects in Indiana County, “we’re never going to see a large coal company like before where they are employing 5,000 or 6,000 people in the coal industry so we see the need to diversify” (PA Business Center).
We agree that diversification is the key to our future, and we think that establishing a renewable energy industry here in Indiana County would help us to achieve this diversity, and with it, a stronger foundation for job growth, prosperity and a healthy, vibrant community. Both public and private initiatives have picked up across the country to begin converting their energy consumption to renewable energy. From California to New York, hundreds of municipalities have voted to source renewable energy (CNBC.com; Curbed.com). Just in 2016, dozens of cities and towns in the mid-Atlantic region will convert to 100% solar (TheHill.com, GovTech.com).
Given these trends, it is not surprising to find that renewable energy development, especially solar, is significantly outpacing conventional fossil fuels worldwide, and these trends are expected to accelerate, as China has just announced $360 Billion in renewable energy by 2020 (Nytimes.com). There are now 8.1 million people employed in the renewable industry worldwide, with a healthy 6% job growth in the renewable sector versus an 18% decline in oil and gas sector (Irena.org). Recognizing these trends, Fortune 500 companies, such as General Electric, have begun investing in renewables, as their profits decline in conventional energy (Forbes.com, TheGuardian.com).
The most notable development in our region is the move by Tesla Industries to merge with Solar City and build an 18,000 square foot operations center in PIttsburgh, which is expected to add 125 jobs to the Pittsburgh Pennsylvania economy on top of the 350 already created statewide (Manufacturing.net). Aquion Energy, a company manufacturing batteries to store solar power, employs 150 people in Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). In Pennsylvania, 66,000 people work in the renewable energy industry compared with 52,531 jobs generated by natural gas industry (Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry).Overall, there has been a 15% increase in green jobs in Pennsylvania since 2014 (Environmental Entrepreneurs). Indiana County can participate in that growth.
Given these growing trends, we think that Indiana County has the potential to reap tremendous benefits from a renewable energy industry, including living-wage jobs to a more robust tax base. Moreover, our strong manufacturing history and a variety of educational institutions give us considerable advantages to home-grow a renewable industry. Our workforce here already possess superior technical skills and knowledge to make this transition, and we would also stand to gain more skills and knowledge.
Finally, substantial environmental and social benefits would come to us if we developed a renewable industry. Our region already possesses appreciable assets of streams, forests and farm land, and with the introduction of a clean energy industry, we would see vast improvements in the quality and vitality of these natural assets. With a new industry bringing prosperity, new skills and knowledge, our communities could once again flourish as manufacturing and educational beacons.
It is for all of these reasons that we urge you to take steps to bring this future for Indiana County. We urge you, specifically, to convene (to join) an Indiana County Task Force charged with drafting an Action Plan for establishing a Sustainable Economy that includes renewable energy industry and infrastructure. From the evidence we’ve collected here, it is clear and compelling that our community must move forward with a solid plan toward a resilient, job-generating economy that provides for our health and well-being for decades to come.
The Center for Community Growth, the Evergreen Conservancy, and the League of Women Voters of Indiana County
Environmental Entrepreneurs and Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance. Clean Jobs Pennsylvania. July 2016. http://www.e2.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/FINAL...
Forsythe, Michael. “China Aims to Spend at Least $360 Billion on Renewable Energy by 2020.” Nytimes.com January 5, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/05/world/asia/china...
Gradnick, Jodi. “More Cities –Of All Sizes—Taking the Plunge to Use 100% Renewable Energy.” CNBC.Com 5-13-2016 http://www.cnbc.com/2016/05/13/more-cities--of-all-sizes--taking-the-plunge-to-use-100-renewable-energy.html
International Renewable Energy Agency. Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2016. May 2016. http://www.se4all.org/sites/default/files/IRENA_RE...
Kelly-Detwiler, Peter. Direct Corporate Investment in Renewables Is the Wave of the Future. Forbes.com 4/10/2015 http://www.forbes.com/sites/peterdetwiler/2015/04/10/direct-corporate-investment-in-renewables-is-the-wave-of-the-future/#3d0c1238619e
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Manufacturing.net. “Solar City to Open Pittsburgh and Buffalo Facilities.” Manufacturing.net November 2106. http://www.manufacturing.net/news/2016/11/solarcity-open-pittsburgh-and-buffalo-facilities
Myers, Spencer. “Indiana County Industries Grow Towards Future Opportunities.” Pennslyvania Business Central November 18, 2016. http://www.pabusinesscentral.com/news/2016-11-18/Community/Indiana_County_industries_grow_towards_future_oppo.html
Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. “Marsellus Shale Update.” December 2016. http://www.workstats.dli.pa.gov/Documents/Marcellus%20Shale/Marcellus%20Shale%20Update.pdf
Sisson, Patrick. “10 Cities Committed to a 100% Clean Energy Future.” Curbed.com August 16, 2016 http://www.curbed.com/2016/8/16/12503158/city-renewable-power-clean-energy
Rhen, Brad. “Solar Power Heats Up in Pennsylvania.” Government Technology April 5, 2016 http://www.govtech.com/fs/infrastructure/Pennsylvania-Solar-Power-Heats-Up.html
Watson, Bruce. “Have We Reached the Tipping Point for Investing in Renewable Energy?” TheGuardian.com February 13, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/feb/13/renewable-energy-investment-fossil-fuel-divestment-investor-summit-climate-change