Next Tuesday, October 14, Governor Terry McAuliffe will officially debut his vision for the future of energy in Virginia. The 2014 Virginia Energy Plan has been called an “all of the above” energy strategy. While it has received support by proponents of fossil fuels, environmentalists are wary about implications the plan has on climate change and the future of energy in Virginia. “We don’t really look at all-of-the-above as a strategy,” said Glen Besa, director of the Sierra Club’s Virginia Chapter. “The governor’s made it pretty clear he wants to address climate change, and all-of-the-above doesn’t help us address climate change as aggressively as we need to.” Although there are positive components of the plan for alternative energies in Virginia, the plan also has negative components, such as the continued support of fossil fuels.
There are small energy victories in the plan that environmentalists can celebrate. First of all, the plan recommends that Virginia establish a “Board on Energy Efficiency” to provide a strategic plan to achieve the state’s 10% reduction in retail energy consumption across the state by 2020. The Board will be appointed by McAuliffe and convene within 90 days of October 7, 2014. The Board on Energy Efficiency will be composed of industry and efficiency experts. The Administration will appoint a “Chief Energy Efficiency Officer” as part of the Governor’s staff to work on state efficiency policies.
Secondly, the Administration will create a “Virginia Solar Energy Development Authority” to work on solar policy statewide (similar to the “Virginia Offshore Wind Development Authority”). The new Solar Authority will be tasked with the goal of ensuring the installation of 15 MW of solar on state and local government facilities by 2017 and an additional 15 MW of solar on commercial, industrial, and residential facilities by the same target date. In addition, the net-metering system cap will be raised from 1% to 3% of base load, with the net-metering residential cap will be raised from 20 MW to 40 MW and non-residential from 500 kw to 1 MW. In essence, residential generating systems (such as solar panels) may be used even more to offset electric energy provided by the electric utility to the electric consumer during the applicable billing period. In addition, currently, there are standby charges for residential systems over 10 kw, but the plan recommends standby changing the charges to systems over 20 kw.
It seems like there are many positive consequences of the plan, but there are also many components that environmentalists continue to fight against. First, a tour will be conducted as part of a robust plan to educate, inform, and explore options for coal exports from Virginia. This has high implications for the coal industry, as it means they can continue to operate as they have been or even expand. “We appreciate and agree with the governor’s commitment to an all-of-the-above energy strategy and his recognition of the need for new energy infrastructure investments,” said David Botkins, spokesman for Dominion Virginia Power. Secondly, the plan calls for offshore oil and gas drilling, including inclusion of Virginia in the five year, from 2017 to 2022, Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. In addition, the plan calls for an expansion of natural gas infrastructure in currently restricted markets, such as portions of Central and Tidewater Virginia. McAuliffe has promoted the $5 billion pipeline that would run through Virginia’s George Washington National Forest, delivering natural gas to Virginia from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. In an article by Steve Szkotak, he claims, “the energy plan shoes that Virginia continues to rely heavily on fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum, with only a sliver of generation from renewable sources such as hydroelectric and solar.”
The Virginia Sierra Club director, Glen Besa, said in a statement that McAuliffe’s support “for offshore drilling, and expanding gas pipelines and coal technology exports seriously undercuts his intentions to address climate change.” How do you feel? Many Virginia citizens are outraged by this energy plan, and want to take action! If you are one of these citizens, check out upcoming events (see the links below) and show Governor McAuliffe how environmentalists feel about the future of energy in Virginia.