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As NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo Signs Ambitious “Green New Deal” Into Law, Virginia Continues to Fall Behind on Clean Energy

NY joins other East Coast states, not including VA, in tapping into its massive offshore wind power potential

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As you look at this map of offshore wind power potential on the east coast, does anything jump out at you as a reason why Virginia would be lagging behind New York state in terms of offshore wind power development? Nope, didn’t think so. The fact is, both states clearly have a great deal of offshore wind power potential, and as far as I’m aware, the economics and technical issues are comparable. How much offshore wind power potential are we talking about? Here in Virginia, a 2018 report by Environment America found that Virginia’s offshore wind power potential is 1.4 times our current power consumption, and nearly enough to power the state even if we electrify transportation and heating!

Yet all the big news these days, including the latest from New York (“New York Awards 1.7GW of Offshore Wind as Cuomo Signs State’s Green New Deal”; also see video, below) seems to be about other states, not Virginia. Just up the east coast, states like New York, New Jersey, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts and Connecticut are cranking up offshore wind power development into the 100s of megawatts or even gigawatts territory, while Virginia is stuck with a tiny, 12-megawatt “demonstration project.” Just yesterday, former VP Al Gore joined NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo as Cuomo “announced 1.7 gigawatts of offshore wind deals with two development groups…the largest offshore wind procurement to date in the U.S., topping New Jersey’s recent 1.1-gigawatt solicitation.” But wait, there’s more:

Flanked by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, Cuomo also signed into law the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, commonly referred to as New York’s Green New Deal.

“The most aggressive climate law in the United States of America,” as Cuomo called it, requires 70 percent renewables by 2030, a complete decarbonization of the state’s electricity system by 2040, and the near-elimination of carbon from New York’s entire economy by 2050.

New York’s Green New Deal passed through New York’s Democrat-controlled legislature last month, and Cuomo had been expected to sign it.

Cuomo said his actions Thursday will likely prove “the most consequential of my administration.”

This is great stuff, a model for what other states should be doing, but which – again – Virginia is *not* doing. And why aren’t we? There are three main culprits: 1) Dominion Energy and its “legally corrupt” domination of Virginia politics are massively holding us back, while wasting billions of dollars on what are likely to be economically and environmentally “stranded” natural gas pipeline and power plant projects; 2) Republicans, who continue to (barely) control the Virginia General Assembly, in addition to being bought-and-paid-for puppets of Dominion Energy, are also a bunch of climate science deniers/know nothings, fossil fuel industry tools and clean energy bashers (see here for a recent example of their disgraceful dishonesty, deception and disinformation on Virginia energy policy); and 3) a few “Dominion Democrats,” such as Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe and current Gov. Ralph Northam (McAuliffe’s hand-picked successor), who have massively failed to demonstrate leadership with regard to the greatest threat facing humanity (the climate crisis), as well as a huge economic opportunity (clean energy) for Virginia.

Obviously, this situation needs to change ASAP, starting with voting Republicans out of power this November. Even then, we’re going to need to push the “Dominion Democrats” to stop genuflecting to Dominion CEO Tom Farrell’s every whim, and instead to do what’s right for Virginians generally, not just Dominion executives and shareholders.

P.S. By the way, the current cost of electricity in Virginia averages 9.56 cents per kilowatthour. In comparison, “New Bedford-based Vineyard Wind’s 800-megawatt offshore [wind power] project will sell power to three Massachusetts utilities at a fixed rate of 8.4 cents per kilowatt hour,” while “In Rhode Island, which will receive 400 megawatts from Revolution Wind, National Grid will pay 9.84 cents per kilowatt hour for 20 years.” That’s right – the cost of offshore wind power is comparable or lower than the cost of power in Virginia right now, and note that offshore wind power is getting cheaper and cheaper every year that goes by. As a huge added bonus, offshore wind power emits ZERO carbon dioxide, ZERO methane, ZERO sulfur dioxide, ZERO particulates, ZERO heavy metals, etc. Is this a no-brainer or what?

P.P.S. For more information on this topic, see Will Virginia Learn from France (Offshore Wind Edition); Offshore Wind Energy Comes to Virginia, But For Now Only a Little Puff; Europe 258,000 MW-Dominion 12 MW; As Climate-Science-Denying ALEC Member Dominion Spews Industry Talking Points and Stalls, Rest of World Races Ahead on Offshore Wind. Also check out Ivy Main’s At Long Last, Dominion Decides It’s Game On for Offshore Wind, which points out that “Dominion follows the money,” and that “None of the reasons Virginians want offshore wind — clean energy, jobs, business development, climate mitigation — mattered until a pathway to profit opened up.” Which is exactly why we need public officials to incentive (e.g., through putting a price on carbon emissions) and/or prod (e.g., through an aggressive, mandatory Renewable Portfolio Standard) Dominion to prioritize clean energy development, and not to take Dominion’s excuses and procrastination at face value.