VCEA Energy Efficiency Policy Comes Up Short

The Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) is making its way through the 2020 General Assembly. The bill would move Virginia toward carbon free electric generation by mid-century. Among other clean energy policies, it includes elements that address energy efficiency.

Energy efficiency is an area where Virginia has lagged compared to other states. So, there is a lot of potential for the Commonwealth to make-up ground on decarbonization by aggressively deploying energy efficiency programs. Unfortunately, the substitute bill that was introduced on Thursday, February 6, comes up short.

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The VCEA Substitute – A Few Quick Takes

As February 7th, a substitute for the Virginia Clean Economy Act VCEA (HB 1526) has been introduced and reported out of the Labor and Commerce committee. I am working through the substitute VCEA to understand what is now on the table. Here is what I have gleaned so far:

  • It requires that Virginia join RGGI and get to zero emission credits by 2050.
  • It allocates 45% of RGGI funds to a flood preparedness fund.
  • It allocates 50% of RGGI funds to programs for low-income energy efficiency programs.
  • It uses RGGI revenue to fund reporting that requires GHG reductions resulting from RGGI be tracked and accounted for.
  • It does not allow offsets or fuel-netting to be used to meet CO2 reductions that are required by RGGI.
  • The timing is a bit hard to follow. It appears that the RGGI regulations go into effect in 2025 and that RGGI will regulate emissions from 2031 to 2050. However, it requires that the reporting on RGGI begin in January, 2022.
  • The bill gives biomass wide access to be counted as a renewable energy resource.
  • It removes language that had allowed utilities to recover revenue reductions due to lost revenue from energy efficiency programs. 
  • It makes energy efficiency pilot programs “in the public interest.”
  • It places a pseudo-moratorium on new fossil fuel plants by saying they are only allowed to meet reliability requirements and/or if a utility has met its energy efficiency goals and cannot address anticipated electric energy growth via demand response and storage.
  • It requires that the SCC consider the social cost of carbon in approving any new generating facility (as a benefit or a cost).
  • It increases the amount of utility scale renewables that are “in public interest” from 5,000 MW to 16,100 MW capacity.
  • It removes language that had said planning for new nuclear capacity  is “in the public interest.”
  • It makes 5,100 MW of offshore wind “in the public interest.”
  • It has requirements to direct investment and hiring relating to the provisions of the bill to disadvantaged communities. 
  • It allows existing nuclear power to remain in place and separates it from the calculation of Dominion’s total electric energy for the purpose of RPS calculations.
  • It would get VA’s regulated electric utilities to 30% renewables by 2030. This would get Dominion to about 60% carbon free by 2030.
  • It gets Dominion to 100% carbon free by 2045. It gets APCO to 100% carbon-free by 2050.

I will make updates as I make my way through the bill and other bills related to it.

An Achievable Green New Deal for Virginia

Action on climate change and energy policy in Virginia is within reach. A key to success for states leading on decarbonization, such as California and New York, is overarching legislation (i.e. an omnibus bill) that addresses economy-wide decarbonization, sets clear goals for cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (not just carbon dioxide), and establishes the processes and methods needed to transform each to a net-zero carbon economy. In Virginia, such an omnibus bill has yet to pass. Although Delegate Rasoul’s aspirational Green New Deal Act, HB 77, strives to fill that void, its scope falls short and it is not technically or economically achievable.

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State Capitol of the Commonwealth of Virginia

Now, Are We Serious About Climate Change?

Climate news in 2019 is starting off where 2018 left off. Just this past week we learned that our oceans are warming faster than expected and that US carbon emissions rose 3.2% in 2018. This rise ends three years of declining emissions and is the largest increase since 2010. In November, the Black Friday Report  showed how the impacts of climate change are already being felt across the US, including in Virginia. And, in October, we learned that aggressive reductions in carbon emissions are our only chance to avoid catastrophic temperature rise.

There is no doubt, climate change is a serious issue. Yet, as scientists sound these alarms, we are busy debating a border wall, who should run for president in 2020, troop withdrawals from Syria, and how much the Russians are influencing our elections. It is as if we are driving along a challenging roadway but cannot take our eyes off our mobile phones long enough to see the cliff that we are about to drive over.

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It is Time to Stop Digging

Below is a transcript of my comments from the Virginia Environmental Justice Rally on October 28, 2018. The rally was held in support of Juliana vs US, the case where 22 youth are suing the federal government for causing climate change. (Photo credit Chris Tandy)

The law of holes says… when you find yourself in a hole, step one to get out…  is to stop digging. Climate change is a hole dug by burning fossil fuels for decades. The hole is deep, getting deeper, and its ill effects are being felt now. It is time to stop digging.

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Governor Terry McAuliffe’s Actions on Climate Change

During his time in office, Governor Terry McAuliffe led action on climate change through a number of executive actions. These actions took steps to move Virginia forward and provide a road map for near-term to bring cleaner energy and economic growth to Virginia. Some of Governor McAuliffe’s actions are summarized below.

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Virginia Energy Plan Public Comments: A First Look

Word Art

The Virginia Energy Plan is currently being updated as required under Virginia Code § 67-201. The plan is updated every four years and covers a ten year period. The Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) is leading the effort and has hosted a number of public input sessions and accepted written comments through Virginia Regulatory Town Hall online forum. Online, public commenting closed at 11:59 PM on Friday August 24.

A first look at what the public has to say reveals a strong push to move Virginia forward into a new, clean energy economy. A total of 697 comments are posted on Virginia Regulatory Town Hall online forum. We identify 662 unique posters (individuals, organizations, or businesses).  We also identify 145 organizations that are represented by comments made on the forum.

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