by Joy Loving
Several posts on Bacon’s Rebellion have caught my eye in recent weeks. In one, Jim Bacon noted that “[m]arket forces are shifting dramatically in favor of clean energy.” He suggested that “clean power advocates need to back entrepreneurial, market-driven solutions.”
In another, he told readers: “Half the Fortune 500 companies have committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. … If Virginia wants to attract data centers, warehouses and big box stores, among other types of investment, it needs to provide a broader array of clean-energy options.”
And in a third, he discussed a large obstacle:
In an era of abundant capital and near-zero interest rates, reputable corporations can easily and cheaply borrow the money they need to expand. A much tougher task is finding a skilled workforce…. Addressing the jobs-skills mismatch is arguably the greatest economic challenge facing Virginia today…. Virginia’s colleges, community colleges and universities can do most of the heavy lifting on education and training, but they are not equipped to provide a fast-response, turnkey workforce solution….
Taken together, these three posts tell me that Virginia needs to:
1. Act decisively to bring more clean energy to the Commonwealth;
2. Emphasize workforce development over subsidies and tax breaks so Virginia can support the companies (and employment opportunities) that more green energy will bring to the state;
3. Create the “explicit legal framework” to make the first two things happen.
The 2017 energy outlook suggests that a huge competitor in the green energy arena is and will continue to be China, which has announced big bold plans to assure their leadership in renewable energy (RE) sources. Germany also has made huge strides in increasing their citizens’ access to and use of renewable energy. Both countries have developed sizable solar manufacturing models and many U.S. solar installers buy their products. It’s not a stretch to say that the U.S. is losing out in energy innovation and renewable energy jobs.
Hopefully, the Virginia General Assembly will address some of these issues and enact specific enabling legislation to foster many more large- and mid-size utility-scale clean energy projects. (In 2016 the GA took a bye in this area). If so, Virginia’s RE picture might improve significantly in the next few years.
But such action, however welcome, will not address the fact that many—even most–non corporate Virginians, individuals and small business owners, find it difficult to use RE to produce their electricity. The legislature has not thus far been responsive to the needs and desires of these citizens. Given the likely coming changes for federal energy policy under the Trump administration, Virginians will need to look to their legislators for the means to determine their energy sources.
Accordingly, I have reached the following conclusions:
• Individuals’ energy independence is limited and may be further eroded.
• Virginians may want more energy security than the state’s centralized generation and distribution model now offers.
• Virginia lags other states and other countries in exploring new energy distribution models and energy sources.
• There is great, currently under-exploited, economic potential from clean energy in Virginia.
Virginians must let their legislators know that they want these improvements. A recent survey by Conservatives for Clean Energy concluded, as reported by WVIR-TV, that “two-thirds of conservative voters in Virginia support renewables….” And, Utility Dive recently reported that “Three Republican governors recently strengthened the renewable portfolio standards in their states in a sign that the link between job growth and renewable energy incentives may be trumping traditional partisan affiliations.”
Improving Virginia’s energy policies and increasing Virginians’ energy options will take a concerted effort. It’s not a matter of politics. Solutions can be found if we—energy consumers—demand it. This year may see some momentum in the GA. We can keep that momentum going by telling our elected representatives what we want.
Joy Loving is a Virginian, utility investor, solar producer, and energy consumer.There are currently no comments highlighted.