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If Virginia Were Serious (Which It Most Certainly Is NOT!) About Being a Clean Energy Leader, Tackling Climate Change…


In the race both to head off climate catastrophe and to seriously compete for the multi-TRILLION-dollar clean energy market of the 21st century, Virginia at this point is being left in the dust…of countries like China, India, Chile, Mexico, Germany, you name it pretty much; and states all over our own country. Now we can add Oregon to the list of states with serious clean energy ambitions.

After weeks of negotiations, Oregon utilities have agreed to back a bill that would phase out coal-fired generation by 2030 and boost the state’s renewable energy standards to 50% by 2040, Oregon Public Broadcasting reports. 

The legislation applies to two of the investor-owned utilities in Oregon — Portland General Electric (PGE) and Pacific Power — which together account for about 70% of electricity delivered in the state. Consumer-owned power companies, public utilities and Idaho Power, the remaining IOU in the state, would not be affected, according to a summary of the bill provided to Utility Dive.

Meanwhile, here in Virginia? As Seth Heald of the Sierra Club writes in the Virginian-Pilot: Dominion Power “remains a financial supporter of ALEC and has given no sign that it plans to leave. Nor have Dominion officials spoken publicly to condemn ALEC’s promotion of climate-science misinformation, or its attacks on clean energy.” Making matters (much) worse, “Virginia politicians are notorious for deferring to Dominion.” 

The result? Virginia doesn’t even HAVE a mandatory Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), let alone a serious net metering policy, a serious plan to promote distributed energy (e.g., rooftop solar) and to power our state with clean energy (including utility-scale solar and extremely abundant offshore wind) and energy efficiency (note: at present, Dominion essentially does nothing to encourage efficiency, since its antiquated, top-down, state-protected-monopoly business model remains based on generating, transmitting and selling more power).

Bottom line: as long as our state government, including the State Corporation Commission and other “captured” regulatory bodies, remain in the pocket of polluters like Dominion Power, and as long as Dominion Power clings to its rapidly dying business model, Virginia will lag further and further behind other states and countries, losing the race for perhaps the biggest economic prize of the 21st century (Gov. McAuliffe’s deals with Cuba, etc. are barely a pittance compared to what we’re talking about with global energy investment), not to mention heading off climate catastrophe. In a sane world, this should be Item #1, #2, #3….#Gazillion on the 2016 Virginia General Assembly’s priority list. Unfortunately for all of us, we apparently don’t live in a sane world…let alone one where the government is of/by/for the people, not the powerful corporations.

P.S. Also note a new study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory finds that state RPS’s “provide around $7.4 billion in annual economic benefits and substantial reductions in water withdrawals and consumption.” No brainer, in other words…


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