Given Virginia’s skilled labor force, world-class universities and research facilities, and strength in manufacturing and engineering, the Commonwealth is well-positioned to benefit from the growing demand for advanced energy. The state is already home to many advanced energy businesses that employ over 65,000 Virginians. Opportunities to leverage this momentum to further serve growing regional, national, and global markets offer real benefits for Virginia’s economy and high-paying jobs for the Commonwealth’s residents.
Extensive research and more than 40 interviews with local stakeholders and experts have led the American Jobs Project to identify two economic clusters that show particular promise: offshore wind and carbon fiber composite materials.
However, there are several barriers preventing Virginia’s advanced energy industries and their supply chains from reaching their full potential. Virginia must address these roadblocks to grow the state’s advanced energy clusters and realize economic gains.
In order to take full advantage of these opportunities, Virginia’s policymakers could enact policies to increase demand for offshore wind and carbon fiber composite technologies and help the Commonwealth’s businesses grow, innovate, and outcompete regional, national, and global competitors. With the right policies in place, these sectors could support 19,000 jobs annually through 2030.
This project serves as a research-based roadmap for state and local leaders who seek to develop smart policies focused on leveraging the Commonwealth’s resources to create high-skill, good-paying jobs. The number of jobs created is highly dependent on action taken by state and local policy makers. With concerted effort at the state and local level, more businesses that sell advanced energy products and services will take root. Employees in the advanced energy sector will spend their earnings in the local economy at grocery stores and restaurants, and those local establishments will need to hire more employees to satisfy demand. This will create a multiplier effect throughout Virginia’s economy, where a single dollar spent in a community circulates through local businesses and their employees numerous times.
Summary of Policy Recommendations
The analysis presented in this report culminates in recommendations for Virginia’s leaders based on best practices in the United States and abroad. Each set of recommendations identifies opportunities to remove barriers and grow the offshore wind and carbon fiber composite materials clusters. While the recommendations are intended to be complementary and would be powerful if adopted as a package, each can also be viewed as a stand-alone option.
Offshore Wind Technology
Encourage Foreign Direct Investment: Target foreign direct investment recruitment missions to fill gaps in Virginia’s offshore wind supply chain.
Revive the Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy Alliance: Overcome complicated supply chain logistics, build strong partnerships, and facilitate European exchanges by establishing the Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy Alliance.
Reserve 50 Percent of Renewable Energy Certificates Purchases for Renewable Energy Sources That Are Connected to an Electric Distribution Grid Serving Virginia: Strengthen Virginia’s energy independence and create a market for locally-produced wind energy by requiring utilities to produce some locally-generated Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), as opposed to out-of-state RECs, which Virginia utilities have used in recent years to satisfy the Commonwealth’s voluntary renewable energy requirement.
Streamline Commercial Permitting: Decrease commercial permitting time and reduce uncertainty around costs and timelines by removing excess procedures.
Enact a Commonwealth Wind Credit: Create a state-level wind credit to offer additional financial support and signal to foreign investors that the state is committed to offshore wind development. The cost of the credit can be offset by income from leasing state lands for renewable energy development.
Establish a Port Strategy to Manage Increases in Shipments and Activity: Coordinate with the Virginia Offshore Wind Development Authority and Virginia Port Authority to meet supply chain needs.
Establish Port Infrastructure Funds: Prepare Virginia’s ports to meet the needs of the offshore wind supply chain with funds from the Virginia Transportation Infrastructure Bank.
Advanced Carbon Fiber Composite Materials Technology
Continue to Expand Virginia’s Global Push: Expand recent successful defense contractor trade missions to recruit foreign companies to locate in Virginia to fill gaps in the supply chain.
Establish a Composites Council: Join the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation and create a composites council.
Host or Co-Sponsor a Hackathon to Ignite Competition: Host an advanced materials technology competition and hackathon.
Create an Online Platform to Streamline Permits and Allow Local Cost Comparisons: Develop a streamlined permitting website to reduce red tape and streamline processes.
Expand Local Implementation of Defense Production Zones to Cluster Companies: Attract defense-related businesses by creating defense zones. Localities can use defense zones to provide incentives to manufacturers.
Update the Machinery and Tools Tax: Reduce barriers by exempting equipment used directly in producing energy-efficient products or materials from the machinery and tools tax.
Innovation Ecosystem and Access to Capital
Establish a State Fund of Funds to Stimulate the Investment Environment: Reduce investment barriers for early-stage companies by improving access to long-term capital.
Restore Funding for the Center for Innovation Technology: Increase funding for successful programs that bridge the commercialization funding gap and help entrepreneurs thrive.
Streamline Technology Transfers: Launch a state technology transfer challenge to help technologies developed in-state commercialize as rapidly as possible.
Establish Technology Investment Tax Credits: Incentivize investors by establishing tax credits for investments in offshore wind technology in the state.
Enlist Foundation Liaisons: Appoint a foundation liaison to build funding partnerships and strategic collaborations.
Establish the North American Offshore Wind Training Academy: Prepare workers for a variety of situations and minimize risk by creating a training facility with lifelike replicas of towers.
Expand Training Partnerships: Convene leaders to determine regional strategy, allocate training specialties among community colleges, and encourage participation from all colleges in eastern Virginia.
Establish Mobile Welding Labs: Identify mobile training needs and solutions, such as mobile welding labs.
Encourage High School Partnerships with Community and Technical Colleges: Offer composites training to high schools and community colleges to make students employable upon graduation in the south and southwest of the state.
Create and Improve Pathways for Veterans to Transition to Advanced Energy Jobs: Expand Military2Manufacturing to train veterans for advanced manufacturing careers.
Establish or Expand Early College Programs: Expand opportunities for career-connected learning through early colleges with work-based learning curriculums.