Attorney Hannah Coman was studying political science at North Carolina’s Davidson College when she first started thinking about climate change, and what needed to happen in the renewable energy sector to address it. Fast forward to today, when she is considered an expert in the field.
The staff attorney of two years, whose work focuses largely on the Commonwealth’s solar industry, was recently appointed to Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s new Clean Energy Advisory Board, a result of legislation carried in the 2019 General Assembly.
Ahead of the group’s first meeting on December 3, Coman discusses their mission and why solar and other clean energy investments are so important for the Commonwealth and beyond.
What does the Clean Energy Advisory Board hope to accomplish?
Our objective is to help make clean energy, including rooftop solar, more accessible to low- and moderate-income Virginians, starting with establishing a pilot program for dispersing loans or rebates for the installation of solar energy infrastructure.
Why are you a good fit for the board?
I was individually appointed, but a lot of what we talk about at SELC is breaking down the barriers to greater solar installation in the Southeast, and we want everybody—no matter their income, geographic region, or housing arrangement—to be able to take part in the changing energy paradigm in the Southeast and in Virginia, specifically. Sometimes it’s really hard to make sure everyone gets to be part of this transition, and this mission is really getting at one of SELC’s clear objectives.
What is energy burden?
Energy burden is when your utility bills equal 6 percent or more of your take-home income, and our energy equity goal is to make sure all Virginians are able to access solar and other efficient means of lowering their energy burden.
Why are solar and clean energy investments so important in Virginia?
One could point to Governor Northam’s recent Executive Order 43, which set a goal for Virginia to produce 100 percent of its electricity from carbon-free sources by 2050, or the fact that Virginia is starting to see a changing tide and a push for more solar energy and the jobs and economic opportunities it brings with it. But on a macro level, this is one of the key policy objectives we need to accomplish to address climate change. I became interested in solar as a way to address climate change, and that’s a big part of what we’re working on.
What’s the best thing advocates of clean energy in Virginia can do right now to make sure the state is on the right path?
Advocate for the retirement of coal-fired plants and an end to any new natural gas plant projects. Solar is cheap and it’s a renewable resource but there’s no need to build a lot of solar energy and capacity without getting some of those other plants retired.
And, if climate change motivates you like it does me, you can sign our petition asking Virginia representatives to make cutting carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants across the Commonwealth a priority.