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Virginia Mercury (Opinion): Advanced energy: Thousands of Virginia jobs rely on it

Posted by Harry Godfrey on Sep 7, 2018

This Virginia Mercury opinion piece by Harry Godfrey, executive director of Virginia Advanced Energy Economy, discusses the state of advanced energy in Virginia and key policies Governor Northam should include in his new Energy Plan. Link to the full article here. Excerpts below:

Think about how many people work at your local supermarket. There is a manager, likely a butcher or two, a green grocer, half a dozen stock clerks, a dozen cashiers, maybe a baker or even a pharmacist. Multiply that across your town, county, the commonwealth as a whole and you get a big workforce.

These numbers make it clear: Advanced energy is a vital part of our economy. This industry employs people in every corner of Virginia – from 1,990 people in Roanoke to 4,600 in Virginia Beach, 3,580 in Chesterfield and 19,900 in Fairfax — with a range of skills and degrees: construction workers, software designers, sales professionals, electrical engineers and more.

Next month, Gov. Ralph Northam is slated to unveil his Energy Plan for the Commonwealth. We urge him, in collaboration with lawmakers and regulators, to commit to three broad policies, outlined below, and detailed here, that will attract new businesses, create jobs, and ensure reliable, clean, affordable energy for all Virginians.

Reform Planning and Procurement — Technological innovation and falling prices have transformed the energy sector. Wind and solar are now among the most affordable sources of energy. Modern information technology lets us monitor and manage our energy use in real-time. The rise of battery storage reduces the need for new plants to meet peak load and new wires to serve that load. Despite this, our utilities and regulators continue to favor conventional (and often more costly) ways to meet demand.

 Unlock Energy Data — Timely, accurate data is crucial to saving energy and money. It allows entrepreneurs and utilities to develop products, tailor services and identify where distributed resources, like batteries and rooftop solar, are most in need. None of these things are possible if consumers, building managers and advanced energy companies don’t have secure, streamlined access to useful data. Policymakers should ensure that, as the utilities deploy smart meters, they guarantee access to the wealth of data these meters produce.

Expand Customer Choice — Customers large and small are looking for reliable, clean, affordable energy. Access to renewable energy is a prerequisite for many data centers and Fortune 500 firms. Virginia’s utilities have provided some opportunities for these buyers, but policymakers should lift unnecessary barriers that keep competitive service providers from offering innovative, cost-competitive options.

 Link to the full VM article here.

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