Update: VICTORY! The Virginia Clean Economy Act passed with bipartisan majorities in the House of Delegates (51-45) and the State Senate (22-17). Read more here.
Supporting Clean Energy Jobs and a Just Transition for Everyone
The climate crisis is here, and it’s hurting every community in Virginia. Flooding from sea level rise has become one of the most challenging public policy issues ever to face coastal Virginia. Intense storms are devastating agriculture across the state. Dangerous heat waves are causing asthma hospitalizations, heart attacks, and more.
It’s time to take serious steps to address global warming. From the mountains to the coast, there is a movement to shift away from fossil fuels and towards a future powered by 100% clean, renewable energy.
We need solutions now. The world’s top scientists at the United Nations said we must cut global carbon emissions in half by 2030 in order to avert climate catastrophe. That means we have to radically change our energy economy to be powered by renewable sources like wind and solar.
What’s at stake if we don’t act? As heat waves increase, the risk of heat-related illnesses and deaths in Virginia will grow. Coastal flooding, which already threatens Norfolk and the Hampton Roads area, is likely to worsen as sea levels rise, potentially impeding emergency medical services. Allergy season is starting earlier and lasting longer, and asthma attacks are increasing in the southeastern United States.
Virginia should begin to dramatically expand clean energy by passing the Virginia Clean Economy Act, for a clean energy standard of 60% by 2036 and 100% soon after.
A Clean Energy Standard (CES) is a state law that requires utilities to deliver a specified amount of clean energy such as wind and solar to their customers. By design, a CES does not hand pick a technology; rather all clean energy sources are able to compete, incentivizing cost reductions and energy efficiency gains. These state-based policies help drive the nation’s $64-billion market for clean energy.
Virginia’s clean energy goal is badly broken. Neighboring states of North Carolina and Maryland have clean energy mandates in place that require state utilities to invest in a minimum amount of solar and wind energy in order to help spur development in the clean-energy industry and reduce the state’s carbon pollution. Virginia’s law is merely a voluntary standard, and utility monopolies like Dominion and Appalachian Power are meeting its minimal, loophole-ridden goals primarily with old, out-of-state, and, in some cases, dirty energy sources. As a result, Virginia lags far behind our neighbors in North Carolina and Maryland on solar power, and wind power is almost nonexistent in the Commonwealth.
What’s holding Virginia back? Our monopoly utility companies — Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power — have routinely blocked policies that would bring more solar and wind to Virginia, and even pushed for policies that punish their customers for installing solar on their roofs.
Our proposal: The Virginia Clean Economy Act
The Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) would require 60% of electricity to come from renewable sources by 2036 and to determine the best way to get to 100% shortly after. This would keep us in line with what the IPCC calls for by cutting carbon emissions approximately in half by 2030 for the electricity sector.
The VCEA will Spur Economic Growth
- Creates 11,000 new jobs in Virginia’s clean energy industry
- Produces $80 billion in net benefits for Virginians
- Invests strategically in Virginia’s energy efficiency, rooftop solar and offshore wind industries
Other states across the country have put in place similar policies with great success, including Maryland, Washington, DC, California, and more. Clean energy mandates have proven to be politically popular and very effective in boosting clean energy across the country. Roughly half of the growth in U.S. renewable energy generation since 2000 can be attributed to state renewable energy requirements.
The VCEA will Protect Consumers.
- Generates up to $3,500 in savings for an average Virginia household over 30 years
- Develops an Energy Efficiency Resource Standard to help households and businesses reduce energy waste and save money
- Provides additional energy efficiency help for marginalized communities, including low-income weatherization, and assistance for veterans and the disabled
- Prevents spikes in electric bills by capping how much ratepayers can be charged
- Closes loopholes to keep energy monopolies from burning fossil fuels to sell electricity out of state
The VCEA will Provide Cleaner Air and Fight Climate Change
- Eliminates all harmful carbon emissions from Virginia utilities by 2050
- Wipes out pollution from power plants that harms public health
- Bolsters Virginia’s coastal communities by investing in programs to combat erosion and destruction on our shores
- Expands consumer ownership through rooftop and shared solar
- Helps to protect our natural resources for future generations
A focus on equity through energy efficiency
Electricity bills in Virginia vary widely. A low-income household spends on average $1.23 per square foot on electricity, while higher-income households spend $0.98 per square foot. And, overall, Virginians have the 10th highest electric bills in the country. We need to invest in energy efficiency, so we can keep electricity bills low as we transition to a clean energy economy.
How it works: “The Four E’s”
1) Using Energy Efficiency to Lower Bills and Reduce Energy Demand: The cheapest energy is energy you never use, but right now Virginia is 49thout of 50 states for utility-led energy efficiency. The Virginia Clean Economy Act will make major investments in efficiency and enact a statewide Energy Efficiency Resource Standard that will establish long-term energy reduction targets and ensure that we’re reducing Virginians’ demand for energy, which lowers power bills and reduces the amount of power we need to produce around the Commonwealth.
2) Enacting a Renewable Portfolio Standard to Make Our Grid 100% Carbon-Free: Keeping in line with Gov. Northam’s executive order, Virginia Clean Economy Act enacts a statewide Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) that brings us to 30% clean energy by 2030. After that, the RPS gradually phases in clean energy sources and phases out coal and gas to ensure our grid becomes 100% carbon-free by 2050. The RPS both ensures Virginia makes the transition to 100% clean energy by 2050, and gives clean energy companies the certainty they need to create good-paying jobs throughout the Commonwealth.
3) Expanding Distributed Clean Power Generation Through Rooftop and Shared Solar: Empowering homeowners, municipalities, and industry to contribute to Virginia’s energy market through rooftop solar is an important part of making sure we generate enough clean energy to power the Commonwealth. The Virginia Clean Economy Act removes some of the unnecessary and burdensome hurdles currently preventing too many consumers from installing rooftop solar panels. Increased rooftop solar creates jobs, reduces the amount of energy utilities need to produce, reduces power bills for the consumers, and increases the amount of emission-free power produced in Virginia without passing costs on to ratepayers. The bill also allows for community solar projects, which allow renters, small businesses, and individuals who might not otherwise be able to afford it take advantage of the benefits of solar power.
4) Eliminating Utility Pollution Throughout the Commonwealth: It’s not enough to increase the amount of clean power Virginia produces and uses. If we really want to combat climate change, we also need to make sure our utilities eliminate all carbon pollution by 2050. The Virginia Clean Economy Act commits the Commonwealth to joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). RGGI uses market forces to incentivize utilities to reduce carbon pollution, and uses revenues to invest in energy efficiency. The bill goes a step further by requiring Virginia’s grid to become fully carbon-free and eliminating all electricity generation pollution in the Commonwealth, eliminating a crucial loophole that could allow power companies to keep burning gas or coal and sell that electricity out of state.
If we don’t act: More dangerous, dirty fracked-gas pipelines threaten our communities
We know that Virginia’s most powerful monopoly utility, Dominion Energy wants to build more fracked-gas infrastructure. The company claims it is a “clean” form of energy. This is far from the truth. Fracking infrastructure releases methane into the atmosphere, a powerful heat-trapping gas. According to growing scientific data, fracked gas could be as disruptive to the climate as coal, when factoring in the full life-cycle of emissions from extraction to piping to burning. The currently proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline for fracked gas have the estimated climate impact equivalent of adding 45 new coal-fired power plants to the state.
TAKE ACTION for a strong, resilient Commonwealth
We have a vision for a state that is resilient in the face of climate change and powered by clean, renewable energy, and where no one is left behind on the path to 100% clean energy.
If you would like to get involved, please contact Hannah Laub, our Virginia Grassroots Organizer, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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- Factsheet: The Virginia Clean Economy Act
- “Frequently Asked Questions” about the bill
- Memo: Residential Bill Impacts of SB 851 / HB 1526
- Letter: Businesses Support the Virginia Clean Economy Act
- Letter: Prominent Virginia Climate Scientists Call on General Assembly to Pass Clean Economy Act 2/4/20
- Study: VCEA Could Create 29,500 Jobs Solar Energy Industries Association, 1/27/20
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- Act Now to Stop Climate Change“Climate Change and Health in Virginia.” Chesapeake Climate Action Network, 2019
- “Solar Jobs By State 2018” The Solar Foundation, 2018
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- “New Analysis: Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines Are Climate Disasters.” Oil Change International, 2017