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Governor brings new focus on clean energy and jobs

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) brought a new focus to renewable energy in Virginia as he presented the state’s 2014 energy plan to a group of business leaders and conservation groups.

While he is pushing for policies that will help grow the green energy sector, McAuliffe said he remains committed to an “all of the above” energy strategy.

“By working together, I am confident that four years from now we will live in a stronger Commonwealth that is less dependent on external forces and is fueled by cleaner, cheaper and more abundant Virginia energy,” he said.

McAuliffe’s top energy goals include growing the less developed areas of the state’s energy sector, including wind, solar, biofuels and nuclear; improving energy efficiency of buildings and vehicles; improving the energy delivery infrastructure; and working with state colleges and universities to train more people for jobs in the energy sector, preparing for anticipated retirements from the existing workforce.

Less than 1 percent of the energy generation in Virginia is currently from wind or solar energy. McAuliffe sees growing the energy sector as an opportunity to create jobs, as well as reducing carbon emissions.

“Virginia has fallen way behind its neighboring states, and we need to catch up,” said Francis Hodsoll, president of Virginia Advanced Energy Industries, who attended the event. “I thought the governor’s message was 100 percent on point. … Clean tech can deliver jobs and investment.”

Neighboring states have created 290,000 jobs in the clean energy sector in recent years, according to Michael Town, executive director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, which co-sponsored the event where McAuliffe presented the energy plan.

“To me, the bottom line is that Virginia needs to have policies that make it competitive with other states in order to get the investment,” Hodsoll said.

The energy plan provides a starting point that advocates hope will lead state legislators to enact more renewable energy-friendly policies, according to Hodsoll and others.

“Virginia’s vast and untapped renewable energy potential is well documented. We can catch up to our neighbors in clean energy, but only if we finally put the policies in place to harness it,” Dawone Robinson, Virginia policy director at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network said in a released statement.

However, Robinson was also critical of the governor’s support for a new Dominion natural gas pipeline because it would help transport natural gas generated by fracking and said the governor should instead focus on getting Dominion to move forward with its planned offshore wind energy project.
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