Central Appalachia has long been a leader in the nation’s energy economy. With the decline of the coal industry and it’s related jobs and supply chains across the region, we face an urgent need and opportunity to embrace the new energy economy’s potential in Appalachia.

Appalachia’s New Energy Opportunity

Energy efficiency and renewable energy have been repeatedly identified as potential economic leverage points for the region’s transition. The new energy economy is symbolically important as we shift from a fossil-fuel based economy both regionally and nationally. Renewable energy usage and improved energy efficiency will be critical for limiting contributions to climate change. They also present several tangible and short-term economic benefits.

Energy efficiency is commonly described as the low-hanging fruit of the new energy economy, because we already have the technology, expertise, and identified need (or latent demand) to make it work. Appalachian communities are disproportionally affected by energy-inefficient homes and buildings and stand to benefit greatly from expanded retrofitting services. Small and medium-sized businesses in rural communities are disproportionately burdened by crippling energy costs. At the same time, renewable energy, particularly solar energy generation, is well-suited to rural areas that have affordable land, with abandoned mine lands holding particular promise for solar generation and other clean energy installations. Both energy efficiency and renewables hold great potential for business and employment growth, with green collar jobs identified as a fast-growing workforce category. These types of jobs have significant benefits for working class families in the region, as they are well-suited to retraining efforts for workers with experience in manufacturing, mining, and other industries.

Aligning Clean Energy Strategies

For the region’s clean energy opportunities to be captured, they must first be fully understood and approached with optimal coordination and strategic alignment among actors working in that space.To that end, CAN has focused our efforts in this sector on building peer networks of strong relationships and shared analysis among clean energy practitioners and advocates. We’ve also worked to plug gaps in our collective knowledge, analysis, and tools.

Three reports produced by CAN in 2018 provide a baseline understanding of 3 key aspects of the emerging clean energy economy: Policy, Economic Impact, and Messaging.

Central Appalachia Clean Energy Policy Toolkit – Authored by the Clean Energy Leadership Institute (CELI)

Central Appalachia Clean Energy Communications & Messaging Report – Authored by Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council

Central Appalachia Clean Energy Economic Impact Inventory – Authored by Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council


The members of the CAN clean energy practitioner network include:

  • MACED (KY)
  • Housing Development Alliance (KY)
  • Fahe (KY)
  • Rural Action/Upgrade Ohio (OH)
  • Solar United Neighbors (OH)
  • Coalfield Development Corp. (WV)
  • Solar United Neighbors (WV)
  • The Nature Conservancy (WV)
  • Energy Efficient West Virginia (WV)
  • Natural Capital Investment Fund (WV/NC)
  • Appalachian Voices (TN/NC/VA)
  • TN Advanced Energy Business Council (TN)

Browse Clean Energy Blog Posts, Resources, and Stories

2018 Regional Peer-to-Peer Convening Highlights

In November of 2018 the Central Appalachian Network held its first Regional Peer-to-Peer Convening at Tamarack in Beckley, West Virginia. Approximately 115 people attended the event, including economic development practitioners, community change makers, funders, and sector experts working in the Central Appalachian region. Discussions were focused on individual sectors and topics, and on cross-cutting issues affecting the equitable transition of the Central Appalachian region. The three concurrent session tracks focused on the three topics of CAN’s working groups: Food and Agriculture Systems, Clean Energy, and Creative Placemaking.

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A Messaging Toolkit for Talking About Clean Energy in Appalachia

The future of clean energy in Appalachia depends in large part on collective buy-in from diverse parties – from state regulators and local community members, to utilities and workforce development networks. Advocates are in need of a common language and message that resonates across the board and unifies these vested interests behind clean energy. To that end, CAN’s Clean Energy Practitioner Network commissioned the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TNAEBC) to develop a best-practices guide to clean energy advocacy.

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An Inventory of What We Know About Clean Energy and Where Appalachia Goes From Here

The Central Appalachia Clean Energy Economic Impact Inventory is a comprehensive log of economic impact data on clean energy in the region. It features detailed analyses of data gaps and recommendations for CAN to capitalize on identified opportunities.

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New Policy Toolkit for Expanding Central Appalachia's Energy Leadership in the 21st Century

Central Appalachia's emerging clean energy economy has potential benefits for economic development, job creation, community resilience, and sustainability. Yet, the policy context at the state, local, and regulatory level is critically important to this emerging market. This policy analysis toolkit from the Clean Energy Leadership Institute (CELI) looks at the region's policy landscape and provides a set of recommendations and priorities to guide future policy change and advocacy efforts in Appalachia.

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