By Dustyn Thompson
“A cry for survival comes from the planet itself. A cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear.” — President Joe Biden’s inaugural address, Jan. 20, 2021.
For the past year, the Sierra Club’s Delaware chapter has helped lead a group of 38 community, business, faith and environmental organizations representing a combined 100,000 constituents from across the state.
We are thrilled that Sen. Stephanie Hansen, D-Middletown, and others have introduced Senate Bill 33 to expand our renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS). RPS laws stipulate the percentage of electricity that regulated utilities must obtain from renewable sources.
However, since we do not often get the chance to have a conversation on what our renewable energy goals should be, we should put considerable effort into ensuring that we get this right.
The U.S. faced a record-breaking number of natural disasters that crossed the $1 billion threshold in damages per event in 2020. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has calculated that, since the 1980s, the cost of U.S. climate- and weather-related disasters, measured in constant 2019 dollars, has increased almost 500%. These climate disasters are not going away. What we can do is prevent them from getting even worse. That’s what this bill does.
Dirty fossil fuels have caused air and water pollution problems for our region, and we in Delaware need to do our part to stop encouraging these dirty industries in neighboring states by reducing the amount of fossil fuel energy we are buying.
Of the 30 states that have enacted RPS laws, 19 of them, including every state around us except Pennsylvania, have RPS goals of 50% or higher.
The Sierra Club and our partners have been meeting with legislators since June of last year to discuss moving Delaware in this direction. We firmly believe that the support exists to create a 50% goal.
Some will argue not to increase the RPS, saying future costs will be too high. That is nonsense. It is unfortunate that there is misinformation out there, some targeting the new junior legislators.
Everything in the market is pointing to the fact that the costs of these credits, and renewable energy as a whole, will go down over time. Delmarva Power has previously stated that the costs of compliance with the RPS are likely to decrease by 80%, even with an increase in the RPS to 40% by 2035. They have also stated that increasing the RPS will have no impact on the reliability of our electric grid.
The misinformation takes information that has little to do with the topic at hand and stretch it beyond capacity to attempt to justify a continued support for dirty and often more expensive fossil fuels.
To be clear, the provisions in this bill will protect ratepayers and move us down a path of achieving more affordable, cleaner and reliable energy for all Delawareans. That is why we are ready and willing to support the passage of Senate Bill 33.
Dustyn Thompson, volunteer and community outreach coordinator for the Sierra Club’s Delaware chapter, resides in Wilmington.