West Virginia’s small businesses, farms and non-profit organizations are critical to supplying the jobs, products and services our communities want and need. Unfortunately, they are also disproportionately affected by economic distress and uncertainty. That’s why we want to voice our support for a smart energy policy that helps ensure our small business community can grow and thrive – solar Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs).
At Natural Capital Investment Fund, we’ve helped over 100 West Virginia businesses win $2.3 million in grants to install solar and make energy efficiency improvements. We’ve seen first-hand how these investments reduce and stabilize costs, create new jobs and incentivize redevelopment and revitalization. These positive economic benefits generate more tax revenue for counties and the state and, ultimately, make West Virginia a better place to live and do business.
However, small businesses with limited tax liability and non-profit organizations – which provide over 280,000 and 70,000 jobs in West Virginia, respectively – are not able to take advantage of federal tax credits or federal grants that help with the upfront cost of energy improvements.
Luckily, third-party financing tools such as solar PPAs address these problems by giving small businesses and non-profits access to solar and its benefits at a fair price. PPAs allow third parties to own solar equipment and sell the energy to the customer, thereby cutting costs for small businesses and allowing third parties to share in the tax savings and grants. Four out of five of West Virginia’s neighboring states already provide these tools.
Smart policies that give West Virginia businesses more choices are needed to secure the future of our state’s economy. The solar industry provides opportunities for economic growth and diversification that can generate badly needed jobs. It is an industry of the future that will attract and retain businesses as well as residents. We urge policy makers to add solar PPAs to West Virginia’s economic development toolkit and prevent West Virginia from falling behind.
— Marten R. Jenkins, Jr. is President of Natural Capital Investment Fund. Gat Caperton is the owner of Caperton Furniture Works, a Berkeley Springs company which has benefitted from investing in solar power.