The Virginia Clean Economy Act is soon to be the Law

The VCEA becomes law on July 1. The act is not perfect. Its calls for tighter energy efficiency standards could have been more aggressive, and it leaves too much power in the hands of monopolies. But for its focus on decarbonizing Virginia’s electrical power sector by by 2050, the bill is stronger and more practical than it is widely represented as mandating 100% renewable energy.

Click here to read ZCV’s Local Opinions op-ed in the Washington Post

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.

2020 Bill Endorsements

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.

Continue reading “2020 Bill Endorsements”

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.

Continue reading “It is Time to Stop Digging”

Legislative Update – March 24, 2018

Virginia’s 2018 Legislative session closed on March 10, 2018. On the energy policy front, the big attention getter was the “Dominion Bill” (SB 966),  but a few other bills made it through the session as well.

Our list of energy policy related bills submitted for Virginia’s 2018 Legislative session is updated here. Bills that did not make it to the Governor’s desk are indicated by strike-through text.

Out of 93 bills that we identified as being of interest, 18 made it out of both the Senate and House. Among the bills that passed, 13 were Republican sponsored and 5 were Democrat sponsored. Governor Northam has signed six bills into law including SB 966. He will take action on the remaining bills by April 9, 2018.

One bill to pay attention to is HB 1270 Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative; prohibition on participation by Commonwealth. This bill prohibits participation in the CO2 Budget Trading Program that is discussed on our Executive Action Page. It is expected that Governor Northam will veto this bill and that it will not be overturned by the legislature.

Economics of residential solar in Virginia

You and I probably agree that solar is awesome. But does it make financial sense? To get an answer, we need to know three things: how much energy will be produced, how much the system will cost, and how are we going to come up with money to pay for it.


How much energy will my system generate?

To get an estimate on that, we will head to PVWatts, enter our ZIP code (I’m using 20147 in Northern Virginia), choose a nearby weather station, then enter 1 for the system size (that’s kilowatts) and 33.7 for tilt — an equivalent to a fairly typical 8/12 roof pitch. The reason I’m looking at a 1 kW system is that we can use its numbers to get an estimate for any other size just by multiplying. If a 1 kW system generates $100 worth of electricity, then a 2 kW system will produce $200, it’s that simple.

Continue reading “Economics of residential solar in Virginia”

Legislative Update – February 4, 2018

Our list of energy policy related bills submitted for Virginia’s 2018 Legislative session is updated here. Bills that have have failed are indicated by strike-through text.

At this point, close to one-third of the tracked bills have failed in one way or another. In broad terms, bills relating to topics such as renewable portfolio standards, expanding privately owned distributed generation, and putting a price on carbon are failing to move forward.

Two bills have passed floor votes.  HB 508 Solar facilities; local regulation passed the House and SB 902 Property tax; exemption for solar energy equipment and facilities passed the Senate. They next will cross over for consideration in the other chamber.

Monday, February 5 and Tuesday, February 6 are shaping up to be significant days with respect energy policy in Richmond. Continue reading “Legislative Update – February 4, 2018”

Legislative Update – January 27, 2018

Our list of energy policy related bills submitted for Virginia’s 2018 Legislative session is updated here.

Two tracked bills have already failed to make it out of committee –SB 9 Electric utility regulation; suspension of reviews of earnings, transitional rate period and SB 696 Va. Alternative Energy & Coastal Protection Act; regulations to establish carbon dioxide cap, etc.

Continue reading “Legislative Update – January 27, 2018”

Legislative Action – Senate Bill 696: Cap and Trade

SB 696 Va. Alternative Energy & Coastal Protection Act; regulations to establish carbon dioxide cap, etc would put legislative support behind Governor McAuliffe’s initiative to establish a carbon trading program for Virginia. The bill is up on Thursday in the Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources for consideration.

Show your support for this bill by contacting the Senators on this committee, especially if you are one of their constituents:

Stuart(Chairman), Hanger, Ruff, Obenshain, Petersen, Marsden, Stanley, Black, Ebbin, Lewis, Chafin, Dance,Suetterlein, Mason, McClellan

Call and write these senators to make your voice heard. Draft your own email or use this Support of SB 696 – Model Email to contact these Senators and show your support for SB 696.

Act early, the bill is the 2nd item on the committee’s agenda. The committee meets 1/2-hour after the Senate Session adjourns.