by Sylvia Neely and Dick Jones**
Recently about 50 people, including local municipal and county officials, toured the solar installation at the University Area Joint Authority which provides wastewater treatment for five municipalities. Cory Miller, UAJA’s executive director, described steps that UAJA is taking to save energy, steps that are expected to create at least $7 million in savings over 30 years.
The first phase of this project, consisting of 7,600 solar panels in a field in College Township as well as a 1.5 megawatt storage battery, has been completed. UAJA partnered with PACE Energy (a private company) which gets tax incentives for investing in renewable energy, while UAJA supplies the land and buys the electricity produced. The second phase of construction, which will be even larger, is now underway.
This presentation was sponsored by the State College chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL). What we learned reinforced our commitment to putting a price on carbon. Projects such as this can be implemented only if they can save money for taxpayers because public authorities and government agencies must invest the public’s money wisely. In addition to UAJA, the county has contracted for solar energy at the correctional facility, and several local municipalities and authorities are exploring the possibility of a joint solar project.
We are proud of what our local governments are doing and hope other municipalities will follow their example. But they can do so only if the numbers work out. That is why CCL supports a price on carbon as the first step toward addressing climate change. Once the price of fossil fuels reflects the considerable damage caused by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, then other measures become more affordable.
A bipartisan consensus is emerging in Congress as several bills have recently been introduced. CCL endorses HR 763, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, which calls for a steadily rising fee on the carbon content of fossil fuels collected at their source. This fee will transform the energy market by making renewable energy more competitive. It will spur innovation in industry to speed the switch to alternative energy. The funds collected from the fee will go to each individual household in a monthly dividend, so people can choose for themselves the best and most economical purchases.
Besides urging Congress to pass this bill, our local chapter provides information about possible solutions to the climate change crisis. Every year we sponsor, without admission charge, speakers on different subjects to learn about developments in this field, hence the tour of the UAJA solar installation.
Our next information session will explore “The Future of Nuclear Energy.” Recently we learned that the nuclear plant at Three Mile Island is being shut down. Does this signal the end of the nuclear era in electricity generation? Or will climate change spur renewed interest in nuclear energy which produces electricity without carbon dioxide as a by-product? What are the new technical developments in this field? What are the health and safety concerns and the economic issues?
These are some of the topics to be addressed by our speakers, Arthur T. Motta, chair of the Department of Nuclear Engineering at Penn State, and David J. Allard, director of the Bureau of Radiation Protection at the PA Department of Environmental Protection. We invite you to join us on Sunday, November 3 at 2 p.m. at Schlow Library for this important discussion.
This Op-Ed appeared in the print edition of the Centre Daily Times on October 10, 2019.
**Sylvia Neely and Dick Jones are members of the State College chapter of CCL.