Virginia Renewable Energy

Virginia Renewable Energy – Share All Share option: Virginia becomes first state in the South to focus on 100% clean energy

State Senator Jennifer McClellan and Del. Rip Sullivan, the two main proponents of the Virginia energy bill, celebrates its transition. Mary Rafferty

Virginia Renewable Energy

April 13 Update: Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed the Virginia Clean Economy Act into law. The following post, originally posted on March 12, talks about what the content is and how.

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Over the past decade, Virginia has gradually transitioned from a purple state to a blue state. Now it will begin the next transition from fossil fuels to clean, carbon-free electricity.

After voting for Republican presidents since Richard Nixon in 1972, Virginians consistently began voting for a Democratic president in 2008. And they have a long tradition of Democratic governors, the most recent of which was pediatric neurologist and Army veteran Ralph Northam, who was elected in 2017.

In September 2019, Northam tried to do what Democrats usually do when elected: to promote clean energy. It issued Executive Order 43, outlining the state’s plan to become 100 percent carbon neutral by 2050 (in line with the national Democrats’ consensus goal) and join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI, nine states). carbon trading network).

However, after the 2017 election, the Republican Party had narrow majority in both houses of the Virginia General Assembly (the nation’s oldest standing legislature), so Northam’s plan was shelved. In the state budget, the Republican legislature took the time to specifically ban Virginia from participating in the RGGI.

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Virginia Governor Ralph Northam speaks during a session of the Virginia General Assembly in Richmond, Virginia, January 8, 2020. Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

In the 2019 election, Virginia voters finally revealed a surprising trick that allowed any jurisdiction to pass climate and clean energy legislation: They appointed Democrats by an overwhelming 21-19 in the Senate and 55-45 in the Senate. . house

Of course, the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) was passed by the General Assembly last week and made Northam’s vision law. The House by 51-45 and the Senate by 22-17; In each house, the bill received exactly one Republican vote.

Virginia is now the first state in the South to begin the clean energy transition and is one of the nation’s leading states in clean energy policy. Let’s take a quick look at what the account does.

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VCEA will use a variety of tools to extract emissions from Virginia’s electrical system. It is built around four main pillars.

The bill directs government agencies to develop a cap and trade program and implement RGGI, which generally has a healthy economic impact on participating states. Virginia’s involvement could help accelerate the clean energy transition by making the slightly oversaturated RGGI market more competitive. Proceeds from the program will be partially diverted to vulnerable communities (see #3).

The most important provision of the law is the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS), which requires two major public utility investors, Dominion Energy and the Appalachian Power Company (a subsidiary of American Electric Power), to receive a certain percentage of their power. from carbon-free sources. Several dozen states have RPS policies, but Virginia hasn’t been one of them so far. The non-existent (or rather voluntary) RPS has become one of the strictest in the country.

The law requires Dominion to switch to 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2045 and ApCo by 2050. To ensure sustainable progress, the RPS includes a set of interim targets for the entire electrical system: 58 percent clean energy by 2030, 73 percent by 2035, 88 percent by 2040 and 100 percent by 2050. Appropriately, the day the law passed Dominion has announced its goal of 100 percent zero emissions by 2050.

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The VCEA also requires the state government to examine how to reach 100 percent by 2045 and prevents the State Corporations Commission (SCC), which oversees state enterprises, from issuing any permits for fossil fuel power plants until the study is complete. the state may impose long-term bans). And it requires utilities to include the social cost of carbon when considering new fossil fuel investments, thereby incorporating climate damage into investment considerations.

The law calls for the shutdown of all Dominion’s biomass power plants by 2028, nearly all coal-fired power plants by 2030, and any remaining fossil fuel power plants in the state by 2045.

This is no small feat in a state that experiences many gas plants. A study by S&P Global found that Dominion had artificially inflated its demand forecasts for years to justify building new factories. (The Rocky Mountain Institute reports that such demand inflation is common in long-term contracts.) Late last year, Dominion finally abandoned plans to build an additional 1.5 gigawatt natural gas power plant despite the surplus.

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Earlier this month, the General Assembly passed a law that gives state regulators control over the timing and financing of coal plant shutdowns to ensure it benefits taxpayers. The Dominion vehemently opposed the bill; It was the first anti-Dominion bill to pass the Senate in years. A similar battle to shut down natural gas power plants is likely to take place in the coming years.

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The best way to lower your electricity bill is to be energy efficient, and Virginia lawmakers are paying close attention to that. The VCEA will implement the statewide Energy Efficient Resource Standard (EERS), which requires investor-owned utilities to reduce their customers’ total energy demand. Dominion should reduce consumption by 5 percent by 2025 (from baseline in 2019); ApCo should reach 2 percent. SCC will then set energy efficiency targets every three years. Energy companies must demonstrate that they have met these goals before they are allowed to build new fossil fuel power plants.

To protect low-income consumers, the bill will create an income percentage program that limits the amount they pay for electricity to a certain percentage of their income. The government will prioritize low-income and vulnerable communities for new renewable energy projects and vocational training programmes, produce a report every three years detailing the impact of the transition on these communities, and direct some of the various revenues from compliance and carbon emissions, financing. Programs to them, such as the Community Flood Preparedness Fund.

By 2035, Dominion must build or acquire 2,700 megawatts of energy storage capacity; ApCo will provide 400 MW. Together, this is one of the most aggressive storage targets in the country. Ten percent of storage should be “beyond the meter” and provide backup power to valuable facilities such as hospitals and nursing homes.

According to RPS, the bill will commit Dominion to build at least 5.2 GW of offshore wind capacity by the end of 2034 (Last year, Dominion proposed a 2.6 GW project). At the same time, the public service should prioritize projects that bring the greatest benefit to local workers, particularly workers from disadvantaged communities, and to the economic development of the state.

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The law provides 1 percent RPS for distributed rooftop solar and requires Dominion and ApCo to consult with the state’s Clean Energy Advisory Council on how best to inform low-income customers on their ability to save money with solar power.

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The net metering cap that customers can pay for the energy they produce with rooftop solar panels will increase from one percent to six percent of the net load. Once the upper limit is reached, SCC will determine the value of the Solar Rate (VOS) it will pay for future net metering projects. One percent of net metering revenue will be reserved for low-income taxpayers, eligible projects will increase in size from one megawatt to three megawatts, and the capacity cap will increase to 150 percent of the client’s annual load.

Large renewable resources will be procured through competitive tenders to keep costs low. The cap on energy purchase agreements (stable, long-term contracts between energy companies and electricity suppliers) will be lifted. And a third of that renewable energy will be owned independently, not on a tariff basis, and that will create some competition for utilities.

Politically, the battle over VCEA followed a predictable line: Democrats representing urban and suburban residents who want clean air and climate, whose jobs and economies depend on fossil fuel infrastructure (and culturally speaking, I don’t like Libs).

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Voting was almost entirely on party lines. One Republican in each House – Terry Kilgore in the House and Jill Vogel in the Senate – voted in favor of the proposal. Democratic breakups, or the threat of secession, often come from those who do not believe the bill is strong enough.

Unlike Oregon Republicans, Virginia Republicans are not capable of just walking away and shutting down the legislature, so there was little they could do to prevent the bill from being passed.

What Virginia is doing is much more prescriptive and in some ways redundant than an economist would prefer (what’s the point of RPS if the cap cuts emissions?). Economists love broad goals and the broad scope of how market participants achieve them. that’s why they always go

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