West Virginia coal miners have been the object of political debates about the renewable energy transition needed to address climate change in the US. Candidate Hillary Clinton offered a retraining plan in 2016 that got lost in Donald Trump’s promises to grow these jobs by doing away with the Clean Power Plan. While West Virginia went for Trump again in 2020, coal mining there continued to shed jobs during his four years in office. And that was before the pandemic accelerated this decline.
A new report, West Virginia’s Energy Future, explains why and how the state’s coal industry should pivot under the incoming Biden Administration. Takeaways include:
- Electric utilities should ramp up renewable energy (RE) and energy efficiency (EE) because RE is cheap and only getting cheaper, customers want it, and looming carbon pricing regulation will drive up the cost of coal-fired electricity.
- Lenders and investors are decreasing investments in utilities sticking with emission-heavy energy resources.
- Increasing RE and EE in West Virginia over the next fifteen years would be more cost-competitive than the status quo of continued dependence on coal.
West Virginia’s ramping up of renewable energy and energy efficiency should be complemented with a federal reinvestment in miners, coal communities, and our new energy economy.