As millennials living and working in West Virginia, we want to live in strong, healthy, vibrant communities where opportunity abounds. We want our elected officials to recognize and embrace new opportunities to strengthen and diversify our state’s economy. And we want to help build a brighter future for the state we love by advocating for smart, fair policies that benefit local residents and communities.
Renewable energy resources like solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal, and biomass increasingly offer affordable, reliable, secure local energy options for West Virginia households, communities, businesses, and institutions. More West Virginians could benefit from these affordable energy options — and the good new jobs, increased entrepreneurship, and corporate investment that come with them — if state leaders create a policy environment that encourages competition and diversification within our rapidly evolving 21st century energy system.
One simple step our elected officials can take toward this goal is to legalize on-site Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) for renewable energy resources. Similar to a lease, an on-site PPA is a third-party financing contract that allows a developer to finance, install, own, and operate a renewable energy facility, such as a solar array, on a host customer’s property. The customer purchases the electricity the system generates at a fixed rate, often lower than that of the local utility company.
This popular and common renewable energy financing mechanism is legal in at least 28 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico. Unlike traditional solar financing, on-site PPAs allow property owners to “go solar” with low to zero upfront cost. On-site PPAs are especially beneficial for tax-exempt entities such as governments, schools, churches and nonprofit organizations. These entities do not pay federal income taxes, so they are unable to benefit from the federal solar energy investment tax credit. But private developers do pay income taxes and can pass along the value of the tax credit in the form of reduced contract costs for tax-exempt customers.
On-site PPAs will give more West Virginians access to affordable renewable energy. They can lower electric bills from day one while helping consumers protect themselves against utility rate hikes. They will help grow the state’s renewable energy sector, creating good local jobs and encouraging homegrown entrepreneurship. And they will attract corporate employers to locate and invest in West Virginia. In all these ways, this one simple policy change can help revitalize our state’s struggling cities, towns and rural communities with an influx of new jobs, local tax revenue, and private investment.
As young people who have chosen to put down roots in West Virginia, we want to help make our home state a better, stronger, healthier place to live, work and play. That’s why we have joined West Virginians for Energy Freedom, a coalition of our neighbors, community organizations, local businesses, and officials who believe West Virginians should have the right to take control of where their energy comes from. Visit wv4ef.org to find out more and join the fight for energy freedom in West Virginia.