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Scrapbook: Connecting Clean-Energy Business with Virginia Policy

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Sierra Club Scrapbook

August 26, 2011

Connecting Clean-Energy Business with Virginia Policy

JR Tolbert
J.R. Tolbert, Virginia Chapter, addressing the First Annual Clean Energy Business Lobby Day.

By J.R. Tolbert, Assistant Director of Legislation & Development of the Virginia Chapter

One of the many success stories this year for the Virginia Chapter was the first ever Clean Energy Business Lobby Day, which will be an annual event. The goal of Lobby Day was to elevate the voice of Virginia's renewable energy industry inside the General Assembly building in Richmond. For too long, Virginia's utilities have dominated the debate and direction of the Commonwealth's energy future.

Trieste Lookwood and Terry McAuliffe
Terry McAuliffe, former DNC Chair, with Sierra Club Field Organizer Trieste Lockwood.

Beginning in October 2010, the Chapter began recruiting representatives from clean-energy businesses to attend a lobby day in January. In total, more than 40 businesses attended and held more than 85 meetings with members of the legislature. We structured the day by developing solar, wind, and biomass platforms for participants to lobby on particular legislation. Additionally, we held a press event in the middle of the day to highlight some of the strongest stories of clean energy in Virginia.

Kent Baake Continuum Energy Solutions
Kent Baake, President of Continuum Energy Solutions.

All in all, this event set the stage for the Virginia Chapter to be viewed as a leader among the clean-energy community, and helped us pass three pieces of legislation with broad bipartisan support. These newly enacted laws make it easier for residents to generate their own electricity using solar and set up a system to finance municipal renewable-energy projects.

Bob Mitchell Atlantic Wind Connection
Bob Mitchell of the Atlantic Wind Connection.

One of the challenges in putting this together was that we realized we needed to start working on it earlier. Luckily, we recruited additional volunteers to overcome this obstacle. We also quickly realized many business people had little knowledge about how the General Assembly worked and how to schedule meetings with them. We helped schedule these and had our lobby team attend meetings with participants.

Thanks to the Lobby Day, we're invited to, and involved in, most industry events in the state. We had dedicated volunteers to lead the recruitment efforts and we helped determine a common agenda for businesses to rally behind and lobby on.

Have a success story to share? We'd like to hear about it. Go to the Success Stories project on the Sierra Club's Activist Network and let others learn from your experience.

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