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Recent regulations make regional economic impact analyses (EIAs) more salient in evaluating the consequences of solar energy in Virginia, but the regulations themselves have tradeoffs and ramifications for developers and localities, who seek impartial guidance on how to measure the economic effects—direct and indirect—of utilizing the Commonwealth’s land resources for solar electricity generation, particularly at utility-scale. This paper considers continuity and change in Virginia’s energy regulation atmosphere related to House Bill 206, describes the causes and consequences of insufficient EIAs and implementation lags, and summarizes existing evidence both on land-use changes for photovoltaic production and on feasible EIA mechanisms.
Four policy options for improving the validity and usefulness of economic impact analyses conducted in the Commonwealth of Virginia on the regional impacts of converting land to solar generation are explored:
- Let Present Trends Continue.
- Standardize Procedures for Regional Input-Output (IO) Analysis.
- Develop a Statewide Computable General Equilibrium (CGE) Model.
- Refine the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Jobs and Economic Development Indicator (JEDI) for Utility-Scale Solar Photovoltaic Projects.
The criteria by which these alternatives are evaluated include cost, empirical effectiveness, accessibility, administrative resilience, and implementation timeline.
This paper’s final recommendation is to pursue Alternative 4: Refine the National Renewable Energy Laboratory Jobs and Economic Development Indicator for Utility-Scale Solar Photovoltaic Projects. Analysis suggests this Alternative would yield reasonably accurate impact assessments in a highly accessible format to the broadest population of stakeholders.