by: Aaron Farrar
ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — An organizer of National Clean Energy Week celebrations is shifting focus to bringing more clean energy jobs to the Commonwealth.
There are more than 90,000 jobs in the industry currently, a statistic Gov. Ralph Northam is praising.
Energy production is expanding in Virginia beyond some of the older forms, like coal and oil. Now, there is solar, wind, and hydroelectric energy, as well as offshore wind.
Heather Reams is the chairwoman of National Clean Energy Week and is based out of Washington, D.C. She wants this week to promote Virginia being a job creator in clean energy.
According to Reams, clean energy can lead to economic growth, consumer choice, lower energy prices, and cleaner environments.
Clean energy jobs in Virginia:
- 12,000 solar energy jobs
- 75,000 energy efficiency jobs
- Largest hydroelectric facility in Bath County, VA
- Largest solar farm east of the Mississippi in Virginia
The jobs available can also help the Commonwealth and the rest of the country bounce back from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
“These are good paying jobs all across America and certainly in the Commonwealth,” Reams said. “They can help people get back on their feet and getting back to the life they once had. This means a lot to our tax base. This means a lot for our economy. It can also attract new businesses to Virginia because more businesses are seeking clean energy to power their companies.”
Twenty-one states, including Virginia, are recognizing Sept. 21-25 as “National Clean Energy Week.” The U.S. Senate has also made the same proclamation.
Clean energy advocates and some lawmakers are also pushing Virginia to become an “energy exporter,” which means the Commonwealth would focus on producing its own clean energy instead of relying on other countries.
Reams believes Virginia becoming a homegrown leader in clean energy will give farmers and consumers more options.
“We can have a strong economy and also protect our environment,” she said. “That’s what clean energy strives to do this week. Have those dialogues. When you have a lot of choice and it’s coming to your grid, it lowers the price for consumers but it’s also cleaner. So you get the benefit of clean air, clean water, beautiful lakes and parks, mountains. We have all of those in Virginia.”
Reams says it is important for Virginia to generate energy while attempting to keep emissions low. After all, energy can create pollution.
Reams also admits not everyone is on board with discussing clean energy because of the potential talk about climate change that may follow. She hopes this week of recognition will spark those conversations.