Is Green Energy Moving into West Virginia?

By Abbey Munn

In 2021, West Virginia was the second largest producer of coal in the nation, and coal-fire plants accounted for 91% of their net energy.[1] However, coal mining jobs hit the lowest they have been since 1890 in West Virginia in 2021.[2]Despite the majority of the state’s energy coming from coal, the industry and the state’s leadership are failing its workers. 

In August of 2022, Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act, a large step towards clean, renewable energy. The Act sets aside $4 billion for communities and projects in areas with closed coal mines or coal-fired power plants.[3]However, West Virginia completed zero clean energy projects in 2022, one of only three states.[4] West Virginia is behind, as other states added hundreds or thousands of projects.[4]  West Virginia workers remain reliant on the coal industry. 

One state, Texas, is currently leading the production of clean energy. Texas produced 136,118 gigawatt-hours of energy in 2022, mostly from wind and some solar.[5] Other states are also increasing their production of renewable energy. Iowa and Oklahoma rank third and fourth in the production of renewable wind and solar energy.[5] States like Kentucky are near the bottom but they have a promising future in green energy projects.[5]

Living in Southern Ohio, I have seen the effects of moving away from fossil fuels and manufacturing. My sister’s family has worked in Weirton, West Virginia for over 20 years at the Cleveland Cliffs steel manufacturing plant. Governor Jim Justice signed a bill in February of 2023 that gives the town of Weirton $105 million in state funding for a renewable energy battery plant.[6] However, 300 employees were laid off in June of 2023 due to the steel plant being out-priced by overseas competition, and the battery plant is still not operational.[7] To make a just transition, West Virginia must act now to get plans in place for renewable energy to succeed.

The West Virginia University College of Law lays out West Virginia’s Energy Future. This plan not only helps communities lean into the economic benefits of renewable energy but also lays out a time frame to help them stay on track. This plan discusses major reasons for the movement away from fossil fuels, including strengthening economic competitiveness, reducing the financial risk caused by emissions, and the fact that renewable energy is getting cheaper.[8] The plan also dedicates a section to making the transition equitable for all, where it describes funding initiatives that help fossil fuel-producing communities bounce back.[8]

Moving forward, policy needs to buy into the green revolution. West Virginia leaders must put their citizens first and spend their time, money, and resources helping their constituents. 

This will be hard to do, as many West Virginia politicians have ties to the coal and fossil fuel industry. Joe Manchin, a Democratic Senator for West Virginia, owns a coal business and is responsible for blocking important green legislation that would speed up the transition to cleaner energy for the entire country.[9] Senator Manchin has been discussing the idea of running again for senator. We must take care of who we elect to our offices. Practicing your civic duty in November of 2024 will affect not only federal-level governments but also state-level. The election for the next governor is in November of 2024 and there is no incumbent, as Jim Justice has met the two-term limit. A senator seat will be on the ballot, currently held by Joe Manchin, as well as two seats to serve in the House of Representatives.

In the 2020 election, around 63% of registered West Virginia voters cast their vote.[10] This number is high for West Virginia, but low for the nation’s average of 67%.[10] For this coming election, it is crucial to use voting power to elect officials who see a future for green energy in West Virginia. Visit for information on how to register to vote in the upcoming election.


[1] “West Virginia State Energy Profile.” West Virginia Profile,,nation%2C%20after%20Wyoming%20and%20Illinois. Accessed 26 Feb. 2024.

[2] Tate, Curtis. “West Virginia Coal Mine Jobs in 2021 Were Fewest since 1890.” West Virginia Public Broadcasting, 2 May 2022,

[3] “Treasury, Energy Release Guidance on Inflation Reduction Act Programs to Incentivize Investments in Underserved Communities, Hard-Hit Coal Communities.” U.S. Department of the Treasury, 13 Feb. 2023,,retired%20coal%2Dfired%20power%20plants.

[4] Tate, Curtis. “Coal-Reliant West Virginia Added Zero Clean Energy Projects in 2022.” West Virginia Public Broadcasting, 10 July 2023,

[5] Weisbrod, Katelyn. “One State Generates Much, Much More Renewable Energy than Any Other-and It’s Not California.” Inside Climate News, 14 Mar. 2023,’s%20Texas.,thanks%20largely%20to%20wind%20energy.

[6] Raby, John. “Bill Signed for West Virginia Renewable Energy Battery Plant.” AP News, AP News, 24 Feb. 2023,

[7] Steinbach, Bill. “300 Steelworkers in Weirton to Be Laid off in June.” WTOV, Accessed 26 Feb. 2024.

[8] “West Virginia’s Energy Future.” West Virginia’s Energy Future | Center for Energy and Sustainable Development | West Virginia University, Accessed 26 Feb. 2024. 

[9] Flavelle, Christopher, et al. “How Joe Manchin Aided Coal, and Earned Millions.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 27 Mar. 2022, 

[10] Kercheval, Hoppy. “West Virginia Election Results Finalized-Big Turnout, Clean Election.” WV MetroNews, 9 Dec. 2020,

5 thoughts on “Is Green Energy Moving into West Virginia?

  1. Hi Abbey, your analysis of West Virginia’s energy landscape is both insightful and concerning. The statistics you’ve provided clearly highlight the urgent need for a transition towards cleaner energy sources, not just for the environment but also for the well-being of the state’s economy and its people. The Inflation Reduction Act passed by Congress in 2022 presents a promising opportunity for West Virginia to invest in renewable energy projects and transition away from its heavy reliance on coal. Governor Jim Justice’s initiative to fund a renewable energy battery plant in Weirton is a step in the right direction, but the recent layoffs at the steel manufacturing plant underscore the challenges that lie ahead. Transitioning to renewable energy will require comprehensive planning, investment, and support for affected workers and communities. I agree that increasing voter turnout and electing officials who prioritize the transition to green energy will be crucial in shaping West Virginia’s future.

  2. Hi Abbey — I was surprised to learn that West Virginia was one of only three states that did not complete any clean energy projects in 2022. I wonder how much of this is based on existing infrastructure vs availability of funding prior to the Inflation Reduction Act. One major challenge with the energy transition, is as you pointed out, employee layoffs when plants are no longer operational or move to a new area. The plan from the law school you wrote about sounds really interesting, especially the section about making the transition equitable for all and helping fossil fuel-producing communities survive throughout the transition. I grew up in Western North Carolina and am very familiar with the ghost-towns that got left behind when economies transition.

    I really appreciated your call to action at the end of your blog post. There certainly is a lot at stake on the ballot in West Virginia this fall, and it’s important to inform voters of the real implications of the policy platforms of their election officials. I can only imagine that the policy of the Governor’s office will play a major role in seeing that communities formally built around coal production do not get left behind as West Virginia pursues its green energy future.

  3. It was really interesting to read about your breakdown of the energy issues in West Virginia. It’s clear from your discussion how deeply the state is tied to coal, and the statistics you shared about the slow adoption of clean energy projects in 2022 are quite concerning. The story of the layoffs in Weirton brings a human face to these changes and shows the need for more proactive efforts in transitioning industries. The funding for the renewable energy battery plant seems promising, but as you noted, things aren’t moving quickly enough. With politicians like Manchin influencing decisions, it seems that overcoming old industry ties won’t be easy. This makes the upcoming elections even more critical. We need leaders who are ready to push for and prioritize green energy! Let’s hope more people recognize the stakes involved and the importance of informed voting to support this energy transformation.

  4. Hi Abbey! I really liked your blog post. I found it especially interesting that Texas is leading in green energy production since they are also leading in oil production. I liked your focus on West Virginia as a state, espcially since West Virginia is the state with the third highest poverty rate in addition to having many other issues such as poor public school systems, etc. I wonder to what extent the lack of green energy development in West Virginia can be attributed to these other issues taking precedence. I really liked how you emphasized West Virginia’s coal reliance and how central it is to the state’s economy and workforce. I think that this makes it even more pressing for West Virginia to transition to green energy as these jobs will continue to dwindle and feed into the other problems that the state faces.

    Good job!

  5. The statistics that you brought up for 2022, when West Virginia didn’t complete any of the projects set out for $4 billion, were disheartening to hear, particularly the relatively few states that completed this task. This raises important discussions about the challenges to implementing clean energy projects in the state. Representatives need to explore the specific challenges such as regulatory issues, lack of infrastructure, potential interest because of relying on coal in the past, or stubborn people that may have prevented progress. Additionally, it highlights the importance of capacity building, assistance, and community involvement in overcoming these barriers. By investing in different training programs, taking ideas from other states that were successful with the transition, and involving local communities in decision-making processes, we can ensure project processes have better outcomes and have great support for renewable energy initiatives. Moreover, we need to see the allocation of resources and prioritize funding for clean energy projects that ensure equity and address disparities between regions. Evaluating policy and regulatory backgrounds is also crucial to identify opportunities for innovation that can accelerate the transition to clean energy. Drawing ideas from successful examples in other states can further inform effective approaches to overcoming challenges and achieving progress in clean energy deployment in West Virginia.

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