Virginia To Greatly Expand Renewable Energy Under New State Law

Photo: Green Energy via wtkr.com

Virginia will close all its coal-fired power plants by 2024 and its electricity will all come from renewable sources and be 100 percent carbon-free by 2050 under a new law the Governor signed yesterday, with penalties imposed on the utilities that fail to meet these deadlines.  The state legislature passed the law with extensive stakeholder input and it incorporated environmental justice concepts in line with the Green New Deal, according to a statement by the Governor’s office — it also requires energy efficiency standards, promotes both on and offshore wind, and solar power including community-based solar.

Why This Matters:  State government elections matter too. This is the most ambitious clean energy program enacted by a Southern state (yet).  The Virginia Governor (a Democrat) pushed much of this policy through an executive but it has now been passed by the legislature with broad support.  The most innovative piece of the new law is that it ties the sale of pollution allowances (permits to emit greenhouse gasses) to the Virginia Community Flood Preparedness Fund to enhance flood prevention, protection, and coastal resilience as well as creating a low-interest loan program to help inland and coastal communities that are subject to recurrent flooding.

More Than a 2050 Target

The legislation does more than just create a big goal — it also sets interim targets for the overall electricity system: “58 percent clean power by 2030, 73 percent by 2035, 88 percent by 2040, and 100 percent by 2050.”  Last month one of the two largest utilities in the state, Dominion Energy, announced it had set itself a target of 100 percent net-zero emissions by 2050.  But the law requires Dominion to go farther and achieve zero emissions by 2045.  The law also puts a moratorium on the state utility commission from issuing any permits for fossil fuel power plants until a study on achieving net-zero by 2045 statewide has been completed,  and it mandates that utilities in the state factor in the social cost of carbon when considering new fossil fuel investments so that they include climate damages into investment considerations.

Energy Efficiency and Affordable Renewable Energy

The law also mandates that both the largest utilities in the state reduce energy consumption through efficiency programs that will help bring down energy costs for consumers, as well as protecting low-income consumers with caps on their electric costs (as a percentage of income).  It also incentivizes the implementation of renewable energy projects in low-income and frontline communities and increases clean energy job training programs in those same places so that they also share the benefits of the clean energy economy.  It also sets aggressive targets for increasing storage capacity for renewable energy, offshore and onshore wind projects and for solar projects, including rooftop solar.  And in installing these projects the utilities must prefer local workers, especially workers from frontline communities, and projects that provide the greatest economic development benefits for the state.

Up Next

DOE Loan Program to Get Revamp Under Granholm’s Leadership

DOE Loan Program to Get Revamp Under Granholm’s Leadership


by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer Less than two weeks after being confirmed, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm has announced that the Biden administration is resuming an Obama-era program that gave billions in loans to clean energy companies. Granholm, during talks at the CERAWeek energy conference on Wednesday, pointed the clean energy businesses the Department of Energy loan program […]

Continue Reading 636 words
Wind Energy Company in the Business of Saving Condors

Wind Energy Company in the Business of Saving Condors

by Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer The world desperately needs more sources of emissions-free energy, yet as these power sources are brought online, we must also contend with their impact on animals and ecosystems. In California, government officials are trying to rescue California condors, which are critically endangered, from being killed by the blades of […]

Continue Reading 527 words
Texas Gas Companies are Pulling Strings in Local Green Energy Policy

Texas Gas Companies are Pulling Strings in Local Green Energy Policy

In the wake of one of the largest power losses in United States history, the conversation about green energy in Texas is back in the headlines. Emily Holden and two other investigative reporters collaborated on a story that ran in The Guardian, The Texas Observer, and San Antonio Report exposing how the Texas Gas Service was successful in significantly watering down a plan by the city of Austin to reduce the use of natural gas there in the future. 

Why This Matters: The oil industry has spent billions to manipulate the national conversation around green energy.

Continue Reading 606 words

Want the planet in your inbox?

Subscribe to the email that top lawmakers, renowned scientists, and thousands of concerned citizens turn to each morning for the latest environmental news and analysis.