At the 2017 Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) annual Advance at the Omni Homestead Resort, Conservatives for Clean Energy (CCE) Virginia Executive Director Christopher West led a discussion on clean energy jobs in the 21st century.
West opened his remarks by giving an overview of CCEVA and a brief history of the organization’s history. He outlined opportunities for renewable energy development and growth in Virginia. Renewable energy growth in Virginia means new jobs for the Commonwealth, and these jobs are largely in rural parts of the state. In 2016 alone, solar jobs grew by 65% and Virginia is on track to see at least the same level growth for 2017. Business insider reported earlier this year that the fastest growing job in the US is wind-turbine technician. They also reported that solar and wind jobs are growing 12 times faster than the US economy as a whole. The US Department of Energy’s 2017 Energy and Employment report found that with regard to electricity generation, the solar industry now employs more people than coal, oil, and gas combined, though oil still employs the largest share when including jobs related to fuel.
West’s remarks then shifted toward corporate demand for clean energy. In Virginia, growth in clean energy jobs and the industry as a whole is being driven by private sector demand – businesses and consumers, not by government mandates. Access to renewable energy is quickly becoming a top requirement for companies when looking to move jobs and their business into Virginia. A 2016 report by Advanced Energy Economy (AEE) found that 71 of the Fortune 100 companies currently have renewable energy or sustainability targets, up from 60 companies just two years ago. Of the Fortune 500 companies, AEE reports that 22 have committed to powering all of their operations with renewable energy, including Wal-Mart and General Motors. Access to a renewable energy is now a requirement for fostering economic development. In the midst of a changing energy market, action is required to position the Commonwealth as a leader in innovative energy generation and utilization.
Virginia has seen recent growth in large utility-scale solar projects in particular. In 2016, Dominion partnered with Amazon Web Services to bring online their first 80-megawatt solar facility in Accomack County. Since then, many additional utility-scale solar projects have been announced across many regions here in the Commonwealth. More than $1 billion has been invested in Virginia’s large scale solar energy projects just in the last couple of years. There are many other opportunities for the development of clean energy here in Virginia that needs to be promoted.
West closed his remarks by stressing a strong clean energy portfolio. Whether related to energy efficiency, smaller distributed renewable energy, biofuels (methane-to-gas), wind power, or the advancement of new clean energy technologies, Virginia should continue to advance policies to support an “all-of-the-above” strategy that emphasizes clean energy growth.
A number of individuals in the audience asked questions about expanding clean energy in their community and how to support conservative clean energy champions. This was a great opportunity for CCE VA to share its mission and vision for clean energy growth in the Commonwealth with a room full of influential conservatives.