Pennsylvania supplies coal, natural gas, electricity, and refined petroleum products to the East Coast.
Pennsylvania is a leading East Coast supplier of coal, natural gas, nuclear power, and refined petroleum products to its own industries and to the nation. The Appalachian Mountains have rich coal resources and run southwest to northeast through Pennsylvania, dividing the Ohio River valley in the west from the Susquehanna River and Delaware River valleys in the east. Pennsylvania’s largest metropolitan areas are Philadelphia on the Delaware River and Pittsburgh on the Ohio River. The Marcellus Shale, the largest U.S. natural gas field, underlies about three-fifths of the state in an arc reaching from the southwest to the northeast.
Pennsylvania’s temperate climate varies from the southeast, where it is influenced by the Atlantic Ocean, to cooler areas near the Great Lakes in the northwest, where weather fronts often come from Canada. Precipitation in the state is plentiful and evenly distributed throughout the year. Temperatures vary significantly among the four seasons.
Pennsylvania’s gross domestic product ranked sixth among the states in 2014. The state is among the top 10 consumers of coal, natural gas, petroleum products, and electricity, but its total energy consumption per capita is in the lower half of states nationwide. The industrial sector leads energy consumption in the state. Major energy-consuming industries include mining; steel, metals, and machinery manufacturing; chemical products; agriculture and food processing; and tourism.
Wind generation has surpassed hydropower to become Pennsylvania’s largest source of renewable energy.
Pennsylvania obtains about 4% of its net electricity generation from renewable sources. Until recently, renewable electricity came mostly from hydroelectric and biomass power plants, but wind power has grown to provide two-fifths of renewable electricity generation, making it the state’s largest renewable source. Appalachian Mountain crests, mainly in Pennsylvania’s southwest but also in the northeast, have wind resources suitable for commercial power production. Pennsylvania’s first commercial wind farm started generating electricity in 2000, and the state now has 24 operating wind farms.
Hydropower and biomass each provide about three-tenths of Pennsylvania’s renewable electricity. The state’s hydroelectric facilities average nearly 60 years old. Some of them have been modernized and upgraded for more efficient operation. Biomass generation comes mainly from municipal solid waste and landfill gas. Pennsylvania is among the top dozen states in the nation using biomass for electricity generation.
Although solar energy still produces substantially less than 1% of the state’s net electricity generation, the number of solar photovoltaic (PV) installations in Pennsylvania is increasing. Solar PV is the choice of most customers generating power into the Pennsylvania electric grid. In 2015, more than two-thirds of net solar generation came from distributed (customer-sited) generating facilities, such as rooftop solar PV, with capacities smaller than 1 megawatt. A number of large businesses have turned to rooftop solar PV for their power supplies. The state’s largest solar PV facility is 10 megawatts.
Pennsylvania’s alternative energy portfolio standards (AEPS), being phased in from 2007 to 2021, require 18% of electricity provided by generation and distribution companies to come from renewable sources by 2021, with at least 0.5% from solar power. Among the resources Pennsylvania recognizes as meeting part of its AEPS requirements are byproducts of pulping and wood manufacturing, coal mine methane, and waste coal. The state also requires investor-owned utilities doing business in the state to undertake energy efficiency measures to reduce peak demand and electricity consumption, which may include helping customers to install solar and geothermal technologies. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission reviews efficiency progress and adjusts goals as needed.
Pennsylvania is one of the top three generators of electricity in the nation.
Pennsylvania is one of the top three electricity-generating states in the nation, along with Texas and Florida. Electricity generation regularly exceeds in-state consumption, making the state an important electricity supplier to the Mid-Atlantic region. Per capita electricity consumption is below the national average. The residential sector is the largest consumer of electricity, using more than one-third of the power consumed in the state. One in five Pennsylvania households use electricity as their primary heating source.
The regional electricity grid is managed by the PJM Interconnection, and the state wholesale power market is supplied with electricity almost entirely by independent power producers. With the increased availability of economic natural gas, the proportion of Pennsylvania’s net generation from coal is declining, and the share from natural gas is growing. In 2005, coal provided more than half of the state’s net generation, and natural gas, less than 5%. By 2015, coal had declined to three-tenths of net generation, and natural gas generated more than one-fourth.
Pennsylvania ranks second in the nation, after Illinois, in nuclear generating capacity, and nuclear power is the state’s largest source of generation. The state’s five nuclear stations have provided more than one-third of net electricity generation in recent years. Pennsylvania is the site of the first commercial U.S. nuclear power plant, which came online at Shippingport in 1957. It operated for 25 years and was shut down in 1982. The state is also the site of the nation’s most serious nuclear power accident, a partial core meltdown at Three Mile Island Unit 2 in 1979. That accident led to sweeping changes in U.S. nuclear regulation and operating standards
The Marcellus Shale has made Pennsylvania the nation’s second-largest natural gas-producing state.
Pennsylvania’s natural gas production was more than eight times larger in 2015 than in 2010 because of development of the Marcellus Shale. Gross natural gas production exceeded 4.7 trillion cubic feet in 2015 and made the state the second largest natural gas producer in the nation, after Texas. Pennsylvania is also second only to Texas in estimates of proved natural gas reserves, which quadrupled from 2010 to 2014. The Marcellus Shale, which extends under parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York, Ohio, and Maryland, has the largest estimated proved reserves of any U.S. natural gas field.
Until recently, Pennsylvania depended on interstate pipelines from the Gulf Coast to supply natural gas, but, with Marcellus Shale production, the state can meet its own demand. Pipelines are being reconfigured to send natural gas from Pennsylvania to the Midwest and the Gulf Coast. New infrastructure, mainly pipelines to transport Marcellus output from wells to interstate natural gas transmission systems, is also being built. The state has some transmission pipeline infrastructure in the west, the legacy of an earlier era when western Pennsylvania, western New York, and West Virginia comprised the nation’s largest natural gas-producing region.Pennsylvania’s underground natural gas storage capacity is among the largest in the nation.
Pennsylvania is experiencing parallel growth in the production of natural gas liquids (NGL), including ethane and propane. Natural gas processing in the state grew more than five-fold from 2010 to 2014, and producers are building both processing plants to extract NGLs and pipelines to transport them to domestic and Canadian markets and to ports on the East Coast and Gulf Coast for export. Pennsylvania’s first ethane cracker, which makes feedstocks for plastics manufacturing from ethane, is in development.
Half of all households in Pennsylvania use natural gas as their primary heating fuel, but electric power sector consumption has grown rapidly in recent years to surpass the residential sector as the state’s largest natural gas consumer. The electric power sector uses nearly two-fifths of all natural gas consumed in the state. The residential sector and the industrial sector each consume slightly less than one-fourth.
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