MATEWAN – West Virginia has the potential to be the “model child” in the country’s transition to cleaner, greener energy, according to US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm.
Granholm was recently one of the guest speakers at a virtual event co-hosted by the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Interagency Task Force on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization.
“West Virginia has powered the country for the past 100 years, and we want West Virginia to power the country for the next 100 years as well, but using clean energy,” she said.
The state can be at the forefront of the shift to what she calls “energy 2.0,” Granholm said.
“You can be the hub for the deployment of new technologies,” she said. “For example, both by decarbonizing the fossil fuels you have and demonstrating and deploying the clean energy technologies that will allow West Virginia to do well in the future and keep young people in the state.”
Granholm, who previously served as governor of Michigan, said she had experience helping workers displaced by changing and changing industries.
“I was governor of Michigan when the auto industry went bankrupt and was on the verge of collapse,” she said. “We had built the 1.0 car, but we decided that we were going to adopt the 2.0 car, which is the electric vehicle, and the courage of that vehicle, which is the battery.”
The shift to electric vehicle production has helped revitalize Michigan’s economy, Granholm said.
“We started to create jobs again by building on our existing supply chain and matching the same skills that autoworkers already had,” she said. “So I accepted this position of Energy Secretary on the condition that we do everything in our power to create new opportunities for every worker.”
The Biden administration has made revitalization of the Appalachian coal communities in general and West Virginia in particular a central part of its energy policies, Granholm said.
“Over the past few months, to begin with, my department, the Department of Energy, we have doubled funding in West Virginia to create new opportunities for coal workers and their families,” she said. . “For example, at the end of April, we announced $ 7 million for geothermal research at the University of West Virginia. “
In May, the WVU Research Corporation received $ 1.5 million for the production of rare earth elements and essential minerals in fossil fuel communities. In June, the same group received an additional $ 5 million for research into low-carbon power plant technology, Granholm said.
“In total, we have over $ 127 million of active projects in West Virginia,” she said. “We’re betting on this state because we know it’s a good investment and we want West Virginia to see that a clean energy future pays dividends.”
Granholm cited a study by researchers at WVU that highlights the potential economic benefits of reduced emissions in the state.
“Achieving 80% emission-free electricity in this state would spur almost $ 21 billion in new investment and put $ 172 million more each year in West Virginia’s pockets and create tens of thousands of new jobs across the board. the state, ”she said. .
The state is poised to reap huge benefits from the $ 1 trillion infrastructure package recently passed by the Senate, Granholm said.
“We now have a historic bipartite infrastructure agreement that will take all of this effort into high gear,” she said. “They’re dealing, assuming it passes (by the House), it’s going to generate the biggest investment in clean power transmission, the grid, in American history.”
The Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization was established by Executive Decree 14008, Sec. 218, Jan. 27, to ensure that the shift to a clean energy economy creates well-paying union jobs, spurs economic revitalization, corrects environmental degradation and supports energy workers in communities. coal, oil and gas, and power plant communities across the country.
The IGW released an initial report of findings and suggestions for catalyzing economic development in traditional energy communities, which included $ 109.5 million in funding plans for projects directly supporting job creation.
The report identified nearly $ 38 billion in existing federal funding that energy communities could access for infrastructure, environmental remediation, union job creation and community revitalization efforts.
The funding includes more than $ 260 million of existing resources already mobilized by the Home Office to support the reclamation of abandoned mining lands, primarily in the Appalachians.
Granholm’s remarks were part of a series of public meetings in the 25 “priority geographic areas” identified in the IGW’s initial report.