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Wind, Solar Hit New Records; Critics say WV Lawmakers Ignore It

Renewable energy provided a greater percentage of U.S. electricity than coal this spring, a pattern observers expect more often as solar and wind power rise and coal declines. (IEEFA/EIA)
Renewable energy provided a greater percentage of U.S. electricity than coal this spring, a pattern observers expect more often as solar and wind power rise and coal declines. (IEEFA/EIA)
June 10, 2019

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – This spring, renewable energy sources for a time generated more electricity than coal in the U.S., according to federal figures.

Green energy supporters say West Virginia lawmakers are ignoring that important reality.

The numbers fluctuate day to day, but last April – for the first time recorded by the Energy Information Administration – renewables put more power into the nation's grid than coal-fired plants.

House Delegate Evan Hansen says wind and solar have been booming for years. He says there are now about a quarter million solar jobs in the U.S.

But Hanson says West Virginia is missing out because of state policies.

"If you look at the states that border West Virginia, there are thousands of solar-related jobs, but in West Virginia, there's only a couple hundred,” he points out. “And the reason for that is our policies. It's not that we have less sunlight."

Coal's allies have leaned on the history and traditional importance of mining to the region, and they argue that coal is more reliable.

The EIA predicts renewables will provide almost one-fifth of the nation's electricity next year.

Despite the Trump administration stalling many Obama-era environmental rules, the production of Appalachian thermal coal has largely continued its long-term slide.

Hansen says he and others proposed bills in the last legislative session that would have cleared the way for several kinds of solar projects at no cost to taxpayers. But he says those bills went nowhere.

"But instead, there were giveaways to the coal industry,” he states. “And one of those giveaways was a $60 million a year severance tax break on steam coal, with the promise of possibly creating 100 jobs – $600,000 spent on each job."

One bill sponsored by Hansen was The Modern Jobs Act from a large, solar array put on a former mine site.

He says that could help open up the state to the increasing number of big employers who demand green power. The bill died in committee without leaving the House.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV