Gov. Terry McAuliffe has highlighted the need to build a New Virginia Economy, and that finding good jobs for the commonwealth’s veterans is a top priority.
What better industry to focus on than clean energy?
Our state is home to 780,000-plus veterans. Because our military is America’s largest and most sophisticated clean energy customer, many veterans already know how to scale up clean energy technologies better than anyone else in the world.
Recently at an event in Arlington co-hosted by the national nonpartisan business group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2 and the Latino environmental group Voces Verdes) this was evident as a roomful of Virginia veterans agreed that clean energy is their “next mission.”
The veterans in attendance voiced particularly strong support for the Clean Power Plan – which was just finalized last week, and is the single-greatest opportunity for Virginia to create more good jobs in the high-growth clean energy industry.
By setting the first-ever limits on the amount of carbon pollution our power plants kick out into the atmosphere, we can grow clean energy industries like solar, wind and energy efficiency. In the process, we can help create tens of thousands of good Virginia jobs not just for veterans but for all Virginians.
As mentioned in Gov. McAuliffe’s Energy Plan, nearly 40,000 energy efficiency jobs can be created in Virginia. An additional 14,000 solar energy jobs and 10,000 jobs in offshore wind energy alone could also be created if our state implements stronger clean energy policies, according to the Virginia Coastal Research Consortium.
Already, Virginia is on the way to meeting 80 percent of the Clean Power Plan’s pollution reduction standard. By focusing on renewable energy and energy efficiency, we can easily meet the remaining 20 percent over the next decade-and-a-half.
In Virginia, there’s plenty of room for improvement.
While it’s commendable that E2 recently ranked Virginia No. 7 in clean energy jobs nationwide in the first quarter of 2015, it was also Virginia’s first appearance on the list. Our neighbors to the north and south, on the other hand, make frequent appearances in the top 10.
Thanks to a booming solar energy sector, North Carolina has cracked E2’s top 10 six times, while Maryland, which like the Tar Heel State has a strong, mandatory state-level renewable energy standard, has made the list four times including the latest quarter. Another Southern state – Georgia – ranked first nationally last quarter, primarily due to growth in solar energy.
While one in 10 Virginians are veterans, a similarly large portion of the state is Hispanic. And for Latinos, support for the Clean Power Plan is overwhelming – about 86 percent nationwide back the efforts to limit carbon pollution from power plants, which will help grow industries like solar and wind energy.
With the average age of Latinos in the commonwealth only 15 years old, we must make sure our economy can create good job opportunities for tomorrow’s workers – both at the unusually high percentage of Hispanic-owned businesses in Virginia (we’re No. 10 in that category nationwide), and at every other business in the state.
Clean energy can help provide these job opportunities.
Whether you’re a young intern working this summer at a Hispanic-owned clean energy business, or a veteran seeking to transition to a meaningful career in the private sector, we have a responsibility to ensure that our state’s clean energy industry is as strong as possible.
That’s why we’re calling upon Gov. McAuliffe to move forward with strong implementation of the Clean Power Plan. It’s good for our veterans. It’s good for the Latino community. It’s good for Virginia’s young workers. And it’s the right thing to do for the commonwealth.
Joseph Sanchez and Dr. Mary Haberl
Co-owners of SOLARFOUR LLC, a solar startup based in Leesburg
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