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Solar Foundation Director: Virginia’s Energy Policy Needs to be Refocused


Cross posted from Scaling Green

Recently, Andrea Luecke of the Solar Foundation provided a briefing on her organization’s release of a groundbreaking study on solar jobs in America.

The top line numbers were impressive, to say the least: more than 100,000 solar jobs in America, solar jobs up to 24 percent growth over the next 12 months, solar industry growth that is 10 times faster than the national economy as a whole over the last 12 months.  However, not all states benefited equally. As Luecke discusses in the video, it basically comes down to whether a particular state has adopted smart energy policies — or not.

As Luecke explains, “the states that are doing well in terms of solar job creation are the states that have those integral policies like [Renewable Portfolio Standards — RPS], net metering…local rebate programs…third-party purchase agreements.” In contrast, those states that have chosen not to put strong pro-solar policies into place are failing to reap the benefits that more enlightened states are seeing.

Virginia is a state that tends to fall into the less-enlightened category. Thus, although Virginia ranks #19 overall in the 2011 Solar Jobs Census, Luecke notes that “there are still many [pro-solar-energy] policies that Virginia lacks.” Policies like a strong, mandatory RPS, for instance, as well as a “solar carve-out” within that RPS. The lack of such policies means that, despite an overall business-friendly climate, Virginia’s ability to become the “energy capital of the East Coast,” as current Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has stated as a goal, is seriously impaired. To quote Tigercomm President Mike Casey, “It seems like some states are taking a pass on one of the fastest growing industries in America…they’re not making the policy investments to create an environment in which this industry can take root within their state’s borders.

Instead, in the case of Virginia, Gov. McDonnell appears heavily focused on 19th and early 20th century fossil fuels, including environmentally destructive coal (produced in Virginia by blowing up mountains) and dangerous, expensive offshore oil drilling, instead of looking forward to the clean energy revolution of the 21st century. If these policies are enacted and/or continued, what it will mean is that Virginia – and other states that pursue similar policies – will increasingly be left in the dust, as other states and other countries race ahead, take advantage of lucrative business opportunity, and create the high-quality, long-term jobs that could have gone, but didn’t due to erroneous energy policy choices, to states like Virginia.


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