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Advanced Energy Jobs Experience Growth in Virginia

Advanced energy companies expect to increase jobs by 7% in 2019, yet obstacles remain.

Advanced Energy Economy (AEE), a national business group, recently released a fact sheet showing that Virginia has 101,400 people working in advanced energy. This represents more than those employed by hospitals (98,549), and twice as many as those in real estate (43,181) across the Commonwealth. The United States has a total of 3.5 million working in advanced energy jobs throughout the nation.

“With more than 100,000 workers and a robust 7% increase in jobs expected this year, advanced energy is an exciting growth sector for Virginia’s economy,” says Harry Godfrey, executive director of Virginia Advanced Energy Economy (Virginia AEE). “But this industry is far from meeting its full potential in the Commonwealth, as it is held back by a variety of policy obstacles and uncertainty in the market.”

Key Virginia advanced energy employment details:

  • Energy efficiency led advanced energy segments with 78,700 jobs.
  • Electricity generation from sources such as solar, nuclear and wind was second with 12,600 jobs.
  • Jobs grew 4%, three times Virginia’s overall 1.5% jobs growth rate in 2018
  • Strong 7% jobs growth for 2019 is expected by companies in the Commonwealth.
  • Top 5 counties for advanced energy jobs are Fairfax (20,700), Loudon (5,400), Henrico (4,700), Arlington County (4,600), and Virginia Beach City (4,500).

“The Grid Transformation and Security Act has helped to move the Commonwealth in the right direction, spurring investments in wind, solar, and energy efficiency – investments that create even more family-sustaining jobs,” says Godfrey, referring to SB 966, passed by Virginia’s General Assembly (GA) over a year ago. “We hope that our electric utilities continue to make these investments in a transparent, competitive, cost-effective way. That’s a win for Virginia’s economy and consumers alike.”

The Grid Transformation and Security Act (GTSA) is expected to result in significant expansion of energy efficiency and advanced energy generation. The legislation deems more than 5,000 MW of new solar and wind to be “in the public interest” — facilitating regulatory approval of new projects. At the same time, the law commits utilities to invest more than $1 billion in efficiency projects over 10 years, including $12 million annually for Dominion’s Energy Share program, which helps low-income Virginians lower their electricity bills.

Separately, Virginia is moving ahead on advanced transportation, quickly deploying its share of the VW Dieselgate settlement funds. Last year the Commonwealth announced $14 million would go to developing a network of high-speed EV chargers across the state. In recent months, the Governor’s Administration has moved quickly to help localities electrify their municipal bus fleets, drawing again on VW settlement dollars.

“Advanced energy is growing quickly in Virginia,” Godfrey says. “To create more of these durable, well-paying jobs here, we need to sustain and accelerate the growth of this industry. To do that, we need smart public policies that remove obstacles to deployment and create market certainty.”

Advanced energy businesses operating in the Commonwealth echoed Godfrey’s remarks.

"At TRANE, we're hiring at a record clip here in Virginia as more businesses, residents, and municipalities invest in energy efficiency,” says Larry Cummings, marketing leader for strategic partnerships at TRANE. “But there are untapped opportunities that could create even more jobs for advanced energy companies like ours, like deferred maintenance projects at our public colleges and universities. These self-funded projects, which tally into the hundreds of millions of dollars, would create jobs while saving students and taxpayers money. We need public policies to prompt more smart energy investments like that."

“We’re hiring as fast as possible to keep up with our exponential growth. In the past year, Sigora expanded operations to 10 new states, most of which have made long-term commitments to grow solar,” says Logan Landry, CEO of Sigora Solar. “As a Virginia-based company, we would prefer to hire more Virginians. Sadly, absent the GA prioritizing programs to grow our advanced energy economy and reforming significant policy barriers — like the cap on PPA [power purchase agreement] projects and rooftop solar — Sigora will have to continue to look elsewhere to grow and hire skilled staff.”

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