Newscasts

PNS Daily Newscast - July 9, 2020 


VP Pence backs Trump on getting kids back to school as U.S. coronavirus cases top 3 million; PA state lawmakers call for a "just" economic recovery.

2020Talks - July 9, 2020 


The Green Party nominating convention begins today. The Supreme Court makes its final rulings this week; today, the case is whether Trump's tax returns will be released.

Groups See WV Solar Bill as a ‘Step Forward’

A West Virginia Senate bill aims to let power companies offer regulated solar energy to businesses and households, in a state that currently offers no solar power. (SolarWorld)
A West Virginia Senate bill aims to let power companies offer regulated solar energy to businesses and households, in a state that currently offers no solar power. (SolarWorld)
February 21, 2020

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A bill that passed unanimously in the West Virginia Senate is being seen by environmental groups as an important step toward reducing fossil-fuel use in coal country.

Senate Bill 583 would allow Mountain State power companies to provide solar energy for the first time, according to Jim Kotcon, political chair of the Sierra Club in West Virginia.

But the bill also specifies that no solar farm would reduce the amount of coal-fired electricity produced in the state. Kotcon says it's a compromise that at least allows businesses and consumers to choose solar - while calming worries about the struggling coal industry.

"There are some concerns about consumers and ratepayer impacts that a more progressive bill might have addressed," says Kotcon. "Nevertheless, the bill is a step forward, because it does give our utilities a chance to start putting some solar-powered electricity into the grid."

The legislation moves on to the House this week.

The West Virginia Coal Association opposes it, saying it would put more coal miners out of work. The bill's backers say it was initiated to lure businesses to the state, like Amazon and Wal-Mart, who prefer to use solar energy.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice says he wants to research the bill further to make sure it doesn't harm the coal industry.

If it passes, folks would likely see their bills rise about 20 cents a month to pay for building solar facilities, whether they use solar or not. The Coal Association also argues that laid-off coal miners shouldn't be forced to "subsidize" an alternative fuel.

Kotcon says the bill could be more consumer-friendly for all ratepayers.

"We think that the consumers should be protected," says Kotcon. "That some of the other bills we've looked at allow those customers that want solar electricity to buy it without imposing costs on non-solar customers."

West Virginia gets 92% of its electricity from coal-fired plants, 5.3% from renewable energy resources-primarily hydroelectric power and wind energy-and 2.1% from natural gas. The bill would allow solar plants to provide less than 3% of the total electricity produced in the Mountain State.

Disclosure: Sierra Club, West Virginia Chapter contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Environment, Public Lands/Wilderness. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Diane Bernard, Public News Service - WV