LEBANON, VA – NOVEMBER 19, 2020A $1 million Renewable Energy Fund was established Thursday by the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) from coal tax credit funds.

The VCEDA board met in Lebanon where it approved the establishment of the fund which will be capitalized by $1 million from Coalfield Employment Enhancement Tax Credit funds which VCEDA statutorily receives from the Commonwealth of Virginia.

“The VCEDA board has always recognized the importance of taking bold new steps to aid in the diversification of Southwest Virginia’s e-Region business and industry and the establishment of the new Renewable Energy Fund is just more evidence of that,” said Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA executive director/general counsel. “With the establishment of the Renewable Energy Fund, VCEDA is poised to readily assist in the development of renewable energy projects which will add new jobs and investment to the region and help prepare the workforce for those new jobs.

“Our region, with its long history of energy production, is a prime location for not only the location of new energy production facilities, but also for the manufacturing of the energy components needed for those facilities and their infrastructures,” Belcher added.  “We have been and will be working with a variety of stakeholders concerning these initiatives and the Renewable Energy Fund,” Belcher said.

The news of the establishment of the Renewable Energy Fund was greeted with enthusiasm in the region.

“The Appalachian Council for Innovation is excited to hear about VCEDA’s vision and plan for a Renewable Energy Fund,” said Donald Purdie, president of the Appalachian Council for Innovation. “We believe that the Renewable Energy Fund will be a tremendous step towards the diversification of existing businesses and it will help promote the growth of innovative solutions in our region for the energization industry.  We look forward to economic growth in the coalfields of southwestern Virginia from this promising industry.”

Adam Wells, a co-convener of the Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia, with whom VCEDA has worked, applauded the VCEDA board’s decision to establish the fund. The Solar Workgroup is a group of nonprofit and community action agencies, colleges, state agencies, the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, planning district commissions and other interested citizens and businesses seeking to develop a renewable energy industry cluster in the seven coalfield counties of Southwest Virginia. 

“We applaud VCEDA on its decision to invest heavily in the deployment of renewable energy in Southwest Virginia,” Wells said, adding the Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia has been working for years to open pathways to bring jobs and investments represented by the rapidly growing solar sector to the region.

“Through that work, we have continually found that one of the greatest barriers to the adoption of solar energy is access to financing, as well as catalytic funding that can unlock substantial investments,” Wells said. “VCEDA’s leadership in helping to meet this need is timely and will certainly help to grow the local tax base, expand employment opportunities and retain capital through energy savings. We are very excited to lend our support to this effort.”

Ascent Virginia (AVI), a non-profit collaborative formed by Virginians from all walks of life, seeking to bridge the economic and opportunity divide in Virginia focusing on the creation of a clean and sustainable jobs economy, was also supportive of the establishment of the Renewable Energy Fund. In the past two years, AVI has been working with local southwest Virginia stakeholders — including VCEDA — on an energy storage and electrification manufacturing jobs initiative. 

“It is inspiring to see diversification efforts into a future in new renewable technologies,” Vivek Shinde Patil, director of Ascent Virginia, said of the establishment of the new renewable energy fund. “VCEDA, a key regional economic development driver, influencer and funder, has been a strong supporter and its visionary renewables fund will serve to expand deployment of renewable energy and to power economic transformation in technology manufacturing in the region.” 

In other business at Thursday’s VCEDA Board meeting, the board:

  • approved an up to $400,000 loan to the Tazewell County Industrial Development Authority to be used to assist with the location of an as yet to be announced business to the Bluestone Regional Business and Technology Park in Tazewell County;
  • approved an up to $170,000 grant to the Dickenson County Industrial Development Authority to be used to finance a study on developing medical device manufacturing in Dickenson County; and
  • approved the modification of an up to $149,945 grant to the Southwest Regional Recreation Authority to add additional tourism opportunities in Dickenson County.

About Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority and Southwest Virginia’s e-Region: The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1988 to enhance and diversify the region’s economy and help create jobs, markets Southwest Virginia’s e-Region and its focus on electronic information technology, energy, education, emerging technologies, and entrepreneurship. VCEDA is a unique economic development organization that manages funds for economic development projects from a percentage of the coal and natural gas severance taxes paid by coal and natural gas companies that operate in the region. Located in southwestern Virginia, the region includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton. www.vceda.us or www.e-Region.org.