Virginia’s small businesses support the Clean Power Plan
There’s a lot of misinformation swirling around about clean energy policies and how they will affect our state’s economy and, in particular, small businesses. Some claim clean energy standards, including the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new Clean Power Plan, would hurt small businesses and middle-class Americans. But what do real small business owners think about the proposed EPA standards? It’s time to set the record straight.
First of all, Virginia small employers support strong clean energy standards because they realize carbon pollution is linked to climate change and extreme weather. More and more, extreme weather has been hitting small employers where it hurts the most. Our scientific polling revealed climate change and extreme weather events are causing real financial hardships for small employers in the state—so much so that the majority of entrepreneurs affected by an extreme weather event have experienced a “significant” financial impact to their companies and one in 5 had to lay off employees.
What’s more, fear mongering about increased electric rates is simply false. An analysis by PJM, the regional transmission organization that covers Virginia and 12 other states plus the District of Columbia, finds the exact opposite: power prices would actually be lower under the Clean Power Plan than without it, even as it cuts carbon pollution. How can this be? It’s simple—investing in increased energy efficiency is cheaper than the alternatives.
Additionally, Virginia would be a net seller of carbon pollution credits and would thus reap an economic gain from the Clean Power Plan. In other words, instead of being treated unfairly, as some have claimed, Virginia actually stands to benefit from energy efficiency and other measures taken to comply with the Clean Power Plan, relative to other states in the region.
On top of that, entrepreneurs believe allowing the EPA to regulate harmful carbon emissions could help stabilize the market and set clear goals for our nation's future in the clean energy economy. Small businesses—the majority of which are unaffected by the standards themselves—will benefit as they supply the services and products to help those who do have to meet them. Entrepreneurs could confidently innovate and create jobs knowing that the future would hold long-term financial returns resulting from the new standards. Our poll numbers prove that small employers are committed to this type of future: 87 percent of entrepreneurs said improving innovation and energy efficiency are good ways to increase prosperity for small businesses.
Finally, it's important to emphasize that Virginia will actually over-comply with the Clean Power Plan in 2020, assuming it simply meets its own, voluntary Renewable Portfolio Standard targets and achieves just 50 percent of the EPA's assumed level of energy efficiency gains. An analysis by the Southern Environmental Law Center found that Virginia is almost 80 percent of the way toward meeting its Clean Power Plan goal due to coal plant retirements and fuel conversions the utilities had planned before the EPA even released its proposed plan.
Thankfully, Virginia legislators made great strides toward a cleaner and more efficient future for the commonwealth when it passed a series of bills that cleared the way for increased development of solar, greater savings on power bills and more opportunities for businesses to take advantage of energy efficiency improvements.
Small business owners agree: forward-thinking policies that improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions are good for business because they help them save money, create economic opportunities and help mitigate the factors causing climate change.
Erik Rettig is the Northeast Outreach Manager for the Small Business Majority.