WVU Law professor: Energy efficiency jobs available if West Virginia wants them

By Carrie Salls | Jul 5, 2017

MORGANTOWN – Job opportunities are there in the industrial energy efficiency sector, but West Virginia lawmakers need to change a trend that indicates that the state is not interested in attracting these jobs, according to a report from the American Jobs Project, which is advised by West Virginia University College of Law professor James Van Nostrand.

“The report indicates that a variety of jobs can be created in industrial energy efficiency,” Van Nostrand told The West Virginia Record. “These include the manufacturing jobs associated with producing industrial energy efficiency products - taking advantage of West Virginia's strategic location, its access to low-cost natural gas and a historic petrochemical industry - as well as jobs delivering and installing energy efficiency devices at industrial and manufacturing facilities.”

As West Virginia companies become more competitive through better management of energy costs, Van Nostrand said the report shows that jobs will also be created in the industrial and manufacturing sectors.

However, according to Van Nostrand, West Virginia does not currently seem interested in attracting energy efficiency jobs.

“West Virginia needs to take decisive action to send the necessary market signals that it wants to attract this economic activity and provide jobs and economic growth in this sector of the economy,” Van Nostrand said. “Actions taken in recent years, however, have been in the wrong direction, through regulatory and legislative policies that suggest a lack of interest in industrial energy efficiency or enabling industrial and manufacturing companies to manage their energy costs through utility-sponsored energy efficiency programs.”

For example, Van Nostrand said West Virginia continues to be ranked among the lowest, coming in 44th in the nation, in the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) annual state scorecard rankings for these energy efficiency programs.

Still, Van Nostrand said the opportunities are there for West Virginia to attract energy efficiency jobs.

“The report identifies many resources available to state policymakers that can be called upon to improve the state’s job-creating performance,” he said. “There will be substantial growth in the industrial energy efficiency sector of the economy in the coming years, and the state is well-positioned to take advantage of these opportunities if policymakers can provide the necessary structure and support.”

Van Nostrand said much of the training for energy efficiency sector jobs can come from community colleges.

“With respect to white-collar jobs requiring higher levels of education, West Virginia is currently failing to retain college graduates in the state due to the perceived lack of economic opportunity,” Van Nostrand said. “So we have plenty of excess capacity available to devote to an expansion of industrial energy efficiency.”

According to a WVU Law news release, energy efficiency could bring more than 6,100 jobs to West Virginia each year through 2030.

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