By Aaron Sutch
While surrounding states have generated thousands of jobs in the solar industry, West Virginia’s solar policies hold the state back.
This conclusion and specific recommendations for increasing the production of cheap, clean, reliable solar power come in “Using Solar PV to Create Economic Opportunity and Energy Diversity,” a new white paper from The Mountain Institute and Downstream Strategies.
“We look at the significant growth taking place in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, which can be attributed to supportive public policies, and wonder why West Virginia hasn’t taken advantage of this enormous opportunity,” said Jeff Simcoe, Project Manager Energy Program at Downstream Strategies and report co-author. “We found that there were close to 9,000 jobs associated with the solar industry across those three neighboring states, while West Virginia ranked 51st in total solar jobs per capita, at just under 100 jobs.”
Increasing the use of solar energy in West Virginia would not only create local jobs, but would also protect project owners against rising fuel costs and help diversify the state’s energy economy.
The report may be downloaded from http://goo.gl/nrFm9X.
Also, as a decentralized source of electricity generation, solar PV empowers local ownership and control of energy production while improving electric grid reliability during extreme weather events.
“The solar industry employs more than 120,000 workers nationwide and is one of the fastest growing sectors in the U.S. economy,” said Aaron Sutch, Energy Program Manager for the Mountain Institute and co-author of the report. “As the price of solar continues to drop, West Virginia has a tremendous opportunity to benefit from the technology.”
The report provides five specific recommendations that would help reduce up-front costs of solar PV equipment; improve market access for solar energy; and provide incentives to help residents, businesses and non-profits to utilize solar.
1. Binding Renewable Portfolio Standard with a Solar Carve Out
2. Tax Incentives for Individuals to Implement Solar Onsite
3. Third Party Financing to Benefit Non-profit and Local Government Projects
4. Expansion of Net Metering to Allow Virtual Net Metering For Offsite Solar Projects
5. Other Policy Options Including A Feed In Tariff and Time of Use Pricing
“These policies would help level the playing field for solar and address barriers that prevent West Virginia from establishing an economically viable solar industry. They would create opportunities for businesses and empower consumers to benefit from locally-produced energy,” said Mr. Sutch.