Senator Manchin is right: West Virginia should be a leader in the green economy. (Manchin: We should build the green economy in West Virginia on January 31st.) Our elected officials at both state and federal levels can act to make sure this happens.
West Virginia state lawmakers should legalize a renewable energy financing tool known as Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs). This will increase the demand for renewable energies, especially solar energy. At the federal level, we should invest to ensure that this demand is met by West Virginia workers and that it benefits our state’s local businesses and farms.
With PPAs, companies and organizations can install solar or other power generation systems on their property at no upfront cost. With a PPA, a third party owns, installs, and maintains the facility. Customers benefit from the fact that they can buy the electricity that the system generates at a lower price than they pay to their supplier.
PPAs are legal in 28 states including our neighboring states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, and Virginia. Georgia legalized PPAs in 2015. Since then, the state has installed solar energy that is three times the national average.
Legalizing PPAs will fuel demand for renewable energy in West Virginia, but that’s not enough. We need to make sure West Virginians and West Virginia corporations install these facilities.
The federal government plays a role here.
A “green job” is not just the wiring of solar panels on a roof by the installer. It’s also the seller who closes the deal, the truck driver who supplies the equipment, and the researcher who works in a lab to develop new technologies.
The federal government should invest in staff development programs to train West Virgins for these roles. This appropriation should support, inter alia, vocational training (including on-the-job training), mid-career development and the creation of new small businesses and workers’ cooperatives.
If you invest in renewable energies now, jobs in energy production will be preserved in our country. Federal support can ensure West Virginia does not lag behind in the transition to a renewable energy economy.
An example of an existing federal program that could be expanded is the USDA Rural Energy Program for America (REAP). This program provides grants and loan guarantees to rural business owners and farmers. Last year REAP provided over $ 1 million in loans and grants to farms and businesses in West Virginia. However, more can be done to provide West Virginia businesses and farms with access to affordable, locally produced renewable energy. An expanded REAP program could provide REAP applicants with additional technical assistance so that they can prepare applications and install their projects.
Generations ago, the federal government invested in nationwide electrification. This expansion of infrastructure provided a critical market for West Virginia coal. This made our state an energy power plant. Today, a new round of investment is required to maintain West Virginia’s energy leadership for generations.
Solar United Neighbors
Mt. Nebo, West Virginia