Transitioning from planet-poisoning coal power plants to clean, renewable technologies could happen a lot faster in West Virginia if there was a way to overcome stonewalling by the utilities.
One way to do this would be passage of a power purchase agreement law in West Virginia, as has been done in many surrounding states.
With a PPA in place, homeowners, shopping centers, religious buildings and educational buildings could more rapidly be powered by roof- mounted solar power systems. The solar industry in West Virginia would grow faster, creating good-paying jobs for displaced coal miners.
Another stonewalling example is the utilities’ fight to end net metering.
The concept of central power plants and long distribution lines is a 19th century concept that increasingly seems to be obsolete.
As was described on the article “We all need to step up our efforts” by Steven Munson of The Washington Post, there is a groundswell of responsible-thinking CEOs in all sorts of industries who are “doing the right thing” by addressing how they can reverse climate change in their operations.
One of the most remarkable examples is Atlanta-based Interface Carpets. Their founder and CEO, Ray Anderson, after reading Paul Hawken’s “The Ecology of Commerce” in 2005, directed the executive team to refocus the company’s strategic plan to globally achieve a zero carbon footprint by 2020.
I personally have had conversations with one of these top executives who at first was baffled: “How are we going to achieve the CEO’s directive when our basic raw material is petroleum?”
But under that directive, the executives began to rethink and explore what was possible. The end of the story is they not only are on track to achieve their goal, but they are now more profitable and have grown in their position among the carpet companies of the world because of the acceptance by their customers.
An additional result was they have revolutionized the carpet industry by offering to take back any worn carpeting that is being replaced so that they can recycle it, as opposed to plugging up the landfills.
West Virginians simply need to understand that coal burning to generate power is not only a life-threatening poisoning of the planet, but it is no longer at all competitive. Accepting that reality and the clean, safe, job-creating economic opportunities that transitioning to renewable energy would bring is not fantasy, but is, as has been shown in so many other places around the world, feasible both financially and technically.
Great Britain, where coal mining is a centuries-old industry, reports that they have had five days without any power from their coal fired power plants — a new record, and significant progress.
Scotland in 2015 actually exported 29 percent of the excess energy they generated from their wind power systems.
Germany’s green energy sources in 2017 exceeded for the first time that from coal-fired power.
Closer to home, the Province of Ontario in Canada determined in 2005 that coal-fired power was much more expensive than renewable energy when you added in the very real horrific environmental and health care costs directly attributed to coal fired-power plants. They embarked on a program to shut down all their coal power plants, and in fact dismantle them, and completed that in 2015.
The Ontario Power Authority used to be one of Arch Coal’s biggest customers for West Virginia coal.
Southern California, Edison has had nine concentrated solar power plants in operation since the late 1980s, and because of their remarkable performance and success, are currently planning to build more.
West Virginia is long overdue to get on with embracing the job creating transition to clean, safe, reliable green energy, If for no other reason than for the sake of our children, grandchildren and their children in the future.