Editorials

Lawmakers can energize Ky.’s economy

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, presided over the Senate in the State Capitol in Frankfort, Ky., Tuesday, January 5, 2016. Tuesday was the opening day for the 2016 General Assembly as both the House of Representatives and the Senate convened at noon.
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, presided over the Senate in the State Capitol in Frankfort, Ky., Tuesday, January 5, 2016. Tuesday was the opening day for the 2016 General Assembly as both the House of Representatives and the Senate convened at noon. cbertram@herald-leader.com

Kentucky’s House economic development committee heard on Thursday that the clean-energy industry added 3,159 jobs in North Carolina last year and now employs 26,000 people; then the committee approved a bill authorizing new tax incentives for the coal industry in Kentucky.

While Kentucky lawmakers try to incentivize the walking dead, other states are creating jobs by embracing new technologies and tapping the surging demand for low-carbon energy.

Daniel Brookshire, an analyst for the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association, told the committee that North Carolina’s clean energy industry generated $7 billion in revenue last year, a 45 percent increase over the year before. About half of the industry’s 26,000 full-time jobs are in energy efficiency, followed by 21 percent in the state’s fast-growing solar sector.

The North Carolina legislature fueled the growth in clean-energy jobs in 2007 by becoming the first in the South to mandate that renewable energy provide a certain percent of electrical utility sales. North Carolina’s requirement was 12.5 percent by 2021.

In Kentucky, Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, will again introduce similar legislation, the Clean Energy Opportunity Act, which could give Kentucky’s economy a shot in the arm.

Thanks to Rep. Ruth Ann Palumbo, D-Lexington, chair of the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee, for inviting the Tar Heel to her committee and for fostering a discussion of economic opportunities that Kentucky should be pursuing more aggressively, including the manufacture of solar and wind technology.

A couple dozen Eastern Kentuckians drove in for the meeting then fanned out to talk to lawmakers. Their message: Legislative support for energy efficiency, including home weatherization, and renewable energy would create jobs. It would advance a just economic transition in the mountains where people were underemployed and struggled economically even before the latest steep decline in coal production.

Lawmakers should give what they have to say a serious listen.

  Comments