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If Terry McAuliffe’s Going to Run for Governor in 2021, He Should Start With His 2009 Energy Policy and Fast Forward From There

Back in 2009, McAuliffe supported a mandatory RPS and elements of a "Green New Deal"

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As we near the end of 2019, and with Terry McAuliffe strongly hinting at running for governor again in 2021, I was thinking about his first campaign for governor – back in 2009. Looking through some old blog posts, I found this, from March 11, 2009 (also, copied/pasted below), in which then-candidate McAuliffe rolled out Chapter 1 of his “Business Plan for Virginia” – on energy policy. Several things jump out at me from this post:

  • First of all, note that since 2009, renewable energy costs have *plummeted*, with the “levelized cost” of  unsubsidized solar power dropping an incredible 89% since then, and the “levelized cost” of unsubsidized wind power dropping 70% over the same period. Which means, as you read about McAuliffe’s 2009 energy strategy for Virginia, it’s important to stress that what McAuliffe was calling for back then is much, MUCH more economically attractive today, and therefore much, much more realistic.
  • Second, of course, the climate crisis has only intensified since 2009, while the window of time to deal effectively with this burgeoning disaster has only shrunk. In other words, back in 2009 we would have been smart to have gone into overdrive in transitioning to a 100% clean energy economy. Today, there are even more reasons – and a lot more urgency – to do so.
  • Third, regarding McAuliffe’s 2009 plan, note that he included: 1) a mandatory Renewable Portfolio Standard (“Requiring power companies to generate 25% of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2025”) and 2) a call for net metering (“Encouraging cleaner, locally produced electricity by allowing consumers who produce renewable energy to earn actual retail credit to offset their consumption”). We should absolutely do both of those in the 2020 Virginia General Assembly session – a MANDATORY, aggressive Renewable Portfolio Standard and strong net metering legislation. These were great ideas when McAuliffe proposed them in 2009, and they’re even greater ideas today.
  • Fourth, it’s hard to overemphasize this point in McAuliffe’s energy plan: “Invest in energy efficiency – the least expensive form of energy supply.” I have probably said this, oh, about a million times over the years, yet we STILL are very INefficient in this state, and Dominion STILL has basically no incentive to, let’s say, cut its energy intensity in half. In the 2020 General Assembly session, it’s time to change that, with – as McAuliffe called for in 2009 – a change in incentives so that utilities “put efficiency first.” This one’s a no-brainer.
  • Fifth, the point about natural gas and coal is just completely wrong at this point. In fact, the science is very clear that there’s no way to use fossil fuels “safely and effectively.” And the economics increasingly are saying the same thing. So…nope, gotta ditch natural gas and coal, ASAP.
  • Sixth, I find it fascinating that McAuliffe’s 2009 plan had a provision that sounds a lot like the “Green New Deal,” specifically his call to “[i]nvest in people, committing significant resources to training and educating Virginians to comprise the workforce for today and tomorrow’s clean tech economy.” McAuliffe was absolutely right back in 2009. Now, let’s do it in the 2020 General Assembly session!
  • Finally, I’ve got to say, it’s so disappointing that what McAuliffe was proposing in 2009 hasn’t been put into effect, and in fact that we haven’t gone wayyyy beyond this plan by now. Even more disappointing is that McAuliffe appears to have gone *backwards* since 2009, when based on the economics and science, he should have gone much further over the past 10 years. Basically, McAuliffe needs to tell Dominion Energy he’s not interested in reading and/or listening to the company’s propagandistic talking points. Instead, McAuliffe should talk to folks (e.g., Ivy Main, Mike Casey) who know what they’re talking about and who don’t have a massive $$$ motive to lie (which is what Dominion does, incessantly). Oh yeah, and if McAuliffe wants me to consider supporting him, he needs to start with his 2009 energy plan and fast forward from there…while ditching the fracked-gas pipelines and other fossil fuel non-starters, of course.

McAuliffe Rolls Out Energy Strategy for Virginia

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 11, 2009

Click here (PDF file) to read Chapter 1 of Terry McAuliffe’s “Business Plan for Virginia.” The plan kicks off with “Virginia’s Energy Future.” The major elements are:

1. “Make Virginia a destination for clean energy and clean tech businesses and jobs.”
Includes a mandatory Renewable Portfolio Standard (“Requiring power companies to generate 25% of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2025”) and net metering (“Encouraging cleaner, locally produced electricity by allowing consumers who produce renewable energy to earn actual retail credit to offset their consumption.”). Both are excellent ideas (although I’m with Al Gore, let’s shoot for 100% renewables within a decade!).

2. “Invest in clean, renewable sources of energy supply.”
Includes development of Virginia’s wind, solar, and biomass resources. I’m a huge fan of wind and solar, not so much of biomass (unless we’re talking about biomass possibilities like algae that deliver many times the amount of energy OUT of the system as it takes INTO the system).

3. “Invest in energy efficiency – the least expensive form of energy supply.”
Includes expanded “deployment of smart meters throughout the Commonwealth” and a change in incentives so that utilities “put efficiency first.” The latter essentially describes “decoupling,” which I strongly support. I also support building a “smart grid” and replacing analog meters with “smart” digital ones throughout Virginia.

4. “Do a better job of using coal and natural gas power more safely and effectively.”
I like the emphasis on retraining coal miners so that they are “never unprepared for the changing industry environment.” I could do without the “carbon sequestration” (CCS) and “make Virginia coal the cleanest in America,” but with Creigh Deeds and Brian Moran (and Jim Webb, Mark Warner, Tim Kaine, etc.) also pushing “cleaner coal” (in Brian Moran’s case, even calling Virginia the “Saudi Arabia of coal!”) and CCS, I’ve largely resigned myself to the fact that I’m not going to agree with either the Republican or Democratic gubernatorial nominee on this issue. Sigh.

5. “Protect our families from fluctuating energy costs and economic disruptions.”
I definitely like giving families “the tools to reduce their energy use and carbon footprints.” I also like “low-income energy assistance and weatherization programs.”

6. “Invest in people, committing significant resources to training and educating Virginians to comprise the workforce for today and tomorrow’s clean tech economy.”
This is crucial in order to prepare Virginia’s workforce for the “green jobs” of the future.

There’s a lot more detail in this 30-page plan. I encourage everyone to read the entire thing and see what you think.

P.S. One thing I would have loved to see in this plan would be a specific requirement that all new buildings in Virginia meet energy efficiency standards. Also, I would have loved to see discussion of “smart growth;” perhaps that will come later, in future sections of the “Business Plan” (I presume there will be a chapter on transportation?).