Virginia’s General Assembly is considering a large number of bills that address our energy economy, climate change and the environment. Unlike prior years, several bills are likely to pass. The Zero Carbon team reviewed the 100-plus House bills and the 50-plus Senate bills. The topics range from updates to boards and committees to overhauling the structure of regulated utilities and banning fossil fuel use. We identified bills that are consistent with ZCV Legislative Priorities and that would generate immediate results.
We endorse Senator Favola’s SB 94 (which has passed in the senate) and Delegate Reid’s HB 714. These bills update Virginia’s Energy Plan (Title 67 of the Virginia Code) to address Virginia’s greenhouse (GHG) gas emissions. The most important element is that they require the quadrennial energy plan developed by the executive branch to be drafted to achieve net-zero carbon energy for all sectors of Virginia’s economy no later than 2050. ZCV helped develop these bills.
We endorse Delegate Subramanyam’s HB 525 which establishes a statewide greenhouse gas inventory. HB 525 puts in place the requirement that we measure and monitor our progress in cutting GHG emissions, a foundational piece for decarbonizing our economy. ZCV helped draft this bill.
We endorse the Virginia Clean Economy Act, Delegate Sulllivan’s HB1526 and Senator McClellan’s Senate version SB 851. These are sweeping bills that would lead to decarbonization of the energy sector by 2050, with wide-ranging impact on energy policy in Virginia over the next several decades. We note three major caveats.
First, the bill would require phase out of nuclear power because the renewable portfolio standard (RPS) is based on “total electric energy sold,” which the bill indirectly defines as including nuclear. This appears to be an editing error and should be corrected. It is impossible to decarbonize the electricity sector sufficiently fast at reasonable cost without nuclear. Second, the bill only addresses the electric power sector. Although the power sector is key to decarbonization, we need an economy-wide decarbonization. Third, the bill’s highly prescriptive goals and targets need to be evaluated to determine if they will yield the best result for Virginia (that is fastest decarbonization and lowest cost). Regardless, the VCEA would put into law a mandatory RPS, energy efficiency requirements, and initiate carbon emissions regulations which are all needed to move to a zero carbon electric power sector.
We endorse several bills related to the VCEA. We recommend amending Senators Bell’s and Sullivan’s energy efficiency standards bills (SB 354 and HB 1450) to require greater efficiency gains over a shorter period of time. As written, the bills would result in roughly a 13 to 14 percent reduction in energy use by 2030, which is not an aggressive target. At a minimum, Virginia’s goals should match what has been accomplished in Maryland and the bills should be amended to require a per capita electricity usage and peak demand reduction of 15 percent by 2027 and then an incremental savings of two percent a year thereafter. We endorse Delegate Sullivan’s HB 1451, which is a standalone RPS bill that matches language in HB 1526. We endorse Delegate Herring’s HB 981 and Senator Lewis’s SB 1027 which direct Virginia to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
We do not endorse the ‘Virginia Green New Deal’, Delegate Rasoul’s HB 77. Although we support the aspirations of this bill, we do not see a practical way to achieve its targets.
We endorse the block of bills that are part of the Solar Freedom initiative which include Senator McClellan’s SB 710, Delegate Keam’s HB 572, Delegate Lopez’s HB 1184, and Delegate Simon’s HB 912.
We endorse Delegate Kory’s HB 75 that allows Dominion’s proposed electric school bus pilot program to move forward. We recommend that the bill be amended to require reporting by an independent third-party. The report must document the program’s economic impacts in terms of jobs and costs to ratepayers and it must document the impact the program has on carbon emissions. The bill also should be amended to require that the State Corporation Commission’s approval to make the program permanent must require evidence that the program reduces CO2 emissions in Virginia. We prefer HB 75 over Senator Lucas’s SB 988, because SB 988 effectively skips the pilot phase and moves too quickly to giving Dominion priority in developing electric school bus programs for the commonwealth. Options that enable competitive, market based solutions for electrifying Virginia’s school bus fleet should be considered, as well.
Other bills that we endorse are:
- Delegate Hurst’s HB 1303, Delegate Newman’s SB 549, and Delegate Lewis’s SB 817 with respect to their inclusion of nuclear as a carbon-free energy resource. We do not endorse expanding these to include technologies other than nuclear.
- Delegate Kilgore’s HB 754 which provides support for transitioning our coal field regions to a renewable energy economy.
- Delegate Jones’s HJ 131 and Senator Bell’s SJ 32 which would require the Department of Environmental Quality to develop a Clean Transportation Plan.
- Delegate Helmer’s HB 1297 which expands the SCC from three to five members.
- Delegate Kory’s HB 1298 which would allow the SCC to consider GHG emissions when approving new electric power generating facilities.
- Delegate Reid’s electric car rebate program, HB 717, and Senator Surovell’s broader alternative and efficient energy subsidies and rebates bill, SB 634.
- Delegate Mugler’s HB 234 which would require the Secretary of Commerce and Trade to develop a Virginia Offshore Wind Master Plan that identifies specific measures that will facilitate the establishment of the Hampton Roads region as a wind industry hub.
- Delegate Mason’s HB 1664 and Senator Hayes’s SB 860 which would put the construction or purchase of at least 5,200MW of offshore wind in the public interest.
There are many other energy-related bills that warrant further consideration and could help ensure Virginia is on the right path to decarbonization. We will update our endorsement as we continue to evaluate the bills currently on the table, and we hope you will also voice your support for practical legislation that can effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions and secure a brighter future for all Virginians.