By David Spigelmyer
A rock formation more than a mile beneath the Earth’s surface is generating billions of dollars in energy savings for Pennsylvanians. And those savings are particularly helpful to low-income households, who typically pay, as the Post-Gazette has reported, “a higher percentage of their income toward energy costs.”
That formation includes the Marcellus and Utica shale — and Pennsylvania consumers are saving a bundle from this prolific natural gas resource.
Thankfully, we’re in the early stages of developing this enormous energy opportunity that’s already resulted in significant job growth, air quality improvements and energy savings for Pennsylvanians.
A decade ago, 75 percent of the fuel we used in Pennsylvania to heat our homes and drive our industries came from outside of the state. Today, production in the commonwealth accounts for nearly a quarter of total U.S. production, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
In just the past six years, natural gas production in the commonwealth has increased by 400 percent, making Pennsylvania the nation’s second-largest natural gas producing state.
Hard-working Pennsylvanians, our shared environment and our state economy are the direct beneficiaries of this increase in natural gas supply.
Today, one in three electrons in the United States is produced using clean, domestic natural gas. In Pennsylvania, natural gas is the second-largest electricity generator, according to EIA data. And more than half of Pennsylvania households turn to reliable natural gas to heat their homes.
This increased use of natural gas means significant savings for Pennsylvania families and that’s an important fact missing from the Post-Gazette series.
Compared to a decade ago, residential natural gas costs have fallen from 57 percent to 81 percent, depending on which utility serves your household, resulting in $1,200 on average in annual household savings, according to the Public Utility Commission.
Major natural gas suppliers, including Peoples, Columbia Natural Gas and National Fuel, to name just three, have requested recent rate decreases due to the abundance of low-cost natural gas produced in the region.
In 2016, Pennsylvania consumers realized $16.2 billion in natural gas and electricity savings, compared to 2008 rates. Pennsylvania families saved $9.1 billion on natural gas and $7.1 billion on electricity thanks in large part to locally produced natural gas.
Late last year, the University of Pennsylvania’s Kleinman Center for Energy and Policy released a report confirming that Pennsylvania consumers are realizing 40 percent in savings on natural gas compared to 2008. As the report’s author, Christina Simeone, commented, “Shale gas has been a clear win for consumers.”
What’s more, many of our members regularly support programs like the Dollar Energy Fund to help those less fortunate in our region cover their energy costs. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program provided $3.3 billion in funding last year — 33 percent more than in 2007 — on consumer energy support.
Shale gas has been a clear winner for our environment, too. The United States continues to lead the world in carbon emission reductions, and emissions from electricity generation are at 30-year lows, according to EIA data, as clean, reliable natural gas meets a greater share of our electricity needs.
We expect these natural gas-tied energy savings to continue. More than a dozen efficient natural gas power plants, representing more than $10 billion in private capital investment, have been announced, are under construction or have been brought on line recently. And these clean, modern plants provide around-the-clock reliable power, complementing highly intermittent renewable energy sources like wind and solar.
Natural gas is part of the solution and this region is uniquely positioned, if we get the policy equation right, to ensure that all Pennsylvanians have reliable, affordable and clean energy.
Greater collaboration with energy industry leaders, elected officials and program administrations on smart policies that encourage natural gas production and use will greatly benefit struggling families and give all Pennsylvanians a welcome budget boost.
David Spigelmyer is president of the Robinson-basedMarcellus Shale Coalition, the state’s leading natural gas trade association (MarcellusCoalition.org).
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