Virginia Continues to Lag Behind Neighbors in Clean Energy Jobs

There was another wake-up call for Virginia’s economy last week to join the 21st century energy economy: in addition to making painful state layoffs amid chronic budget shortfalls, it’s also missing its chance to become a contender with neighboring states in attracting jobs that generate clean energy and lower energy bills. E2’s jobs report for the third quarter of 2014 places both Maryland and North Carolina in the nation’s top ten for announced clean energy jobs created.  Virginia, meanwhile, has never even made the list.

This poor showing shouldn’t be a surprise. While North Carolina has 650 MW of solar energy, Virginia has 15. While West Virginia has 583 MW of installed wind energy capacity, Virginia has 0. And in energy efficiency, Maryland is in the top ten in the nation as well, about to blow past its 15% energy reduction target, while Virginia’s largest investor-owned utility recently ranked dead last for energy efficiency savings in the entire nation.

Picking up these clean energy $20 bills Virginia keeps leaving on the sidewalk is not only an economic imperative amid state budget shortfalls: Virginia also faces the prospect of crippling challenges on its coastline as one of the most vulnerable parts of America as sea levels rise as a result of climate change. Virginia’s U.S. Senator Tim Kaine recognized this difficulty of meeting that economic and infrastructure problem last week when he requested help from 11 federal agencies to defend Virginia against advancing sea level rise.

The dire news for Virginia ends there: it has nowhere to go but up, and Governor McAuliffe recognizes this, as indicated in his state Energy Plan that seizes the untapped growth potential in Virginia’s fledgling clean energy sector.

The military community of Virginia is already investing as well: at the Army’s Fort Pickett, a $2.2 million solar array will lead to a $2.6 million return investment, while also moving the military toward zero fuel-cost energy independence.

Like the military, all of Virginia can finally modernize and clean up its 20th century power fleet by investing in 21st century energy jobs, jobs that until now have been created just across state lines. Doing so would lower energy bills, create increasingly-needed jobs, and begin to protect Virginia’s imperiled coastline.