Legislation to encourage power companies in the state to use solar or other renewable energy sources moved closer to passage in the Senate Thursday — but with language benefiting coal-fired plants inserted into the bill.
Senate Bill 583 is requested by the state Development Office in order to help recruit Fortune 500 companies that are committed to increasing usage of renewable energy sources.
As Development Office executive director Mike Graney told the Senate Finance Committee earlier this session, “Not having, frankly, the solar box checked is a problem, and we’ve heard that from a lot of different companies.”
The bill sets up a Renewable Energy Facilities Program under the state Public Service Commission to provide incentives for electric power utilities in the state to invest in solar power and other renewable energy technologies, through a cost recovery system.
On the Senate floor Thursday, the Senate adopted an amendment offered by longtime coal miner and coal industry advocate Sen. Randy Smith, R-Tucker, that makes one key change to the bill: Stating that the renewable energy sources must not “displace any current levels of coal-fired generation capacity.”
“It more or less makes the statement that the state wants to honor the impact and the efforts that coal miners have had on the state,” Smith said, explaining the amendment.
However, the bill already included language regarding that effectively pays homage to coal mining, stating: “West Virginia is rich in energy resources, which provides many advantages to the state, its economy, and its citizens. West Virginia’s abundant mineral reserves have created, and will continue to create, many benefits to the state and its citizens, including thousands of jobs, a strong tax base, and a low-cost, reliable source of energy.”
Smith said the amendment was agreed to by all stakeholders, including electric power utilities, the PSC, and the Development Office.
The bill will be on passage stage in the Senate Friday.