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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Support the Renewables First Act

The majority of Virginia’s electricity is based on burning fossil fuels, mainly natural gas and coal. The effects of the resulting climate change are all around us. For example, the six hottest years recorded have occurred over the last decade. Tens of millions of dollars are spent annually to harden Virginia’s coastal military bases against sea level rise. Science tells us that we must hold global temperature increases under 2°C (3.6°F), or suffer staggering economic and social upheaval. To realize this goal, the major economies must pursue ‘deep decarbonization’, reducing carbon emissions by approximately 80% by mid-century.

In addition to producing heat-trapping gases, the burning of fossil fuels produces particulates and gases, which cause toxic ground level ozone. This is a big problem in many parts of the developed and developing world, including Virginia (The American Lung Association gives out letter grades for air quality; Loudoun County’s air gets a ‘C’, Fairfax’s an ‘F’). Public health provides a second strong incentive to reduce fossil fuel-based energy production. We all have to do our part in reducing fossil fuel emissions, including Virginia. Delay is not an option.

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Virginia Energy Plan Public Comments: A First Look

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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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A Path to Zero Carbon: Comments on the Virginia Energy Plan

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 is leading the effort and has hosted a number of public input sessions. They also are accepting written comments through Virginia Regulatory Town Hall online forum. Below are the comments made by Zero Carbon’s Dr. Harrison Crecraft at the August 16 public input session at George Mason University.

We have all heard the alarms about greenhouse gases (GHGs) and global warming. I would like to start by offering a bit of geologic perspective. Since the start of the industrial period, CO2 has soared from 290 to 410 ppm. Its timing and isotopic signature leave no question that this spike in CO2 is from burning fossil fuels. At current rates, CO2 will reach 500 ppm within 45 years.

The last time CO2 was at today’s levels was 3 million years ago. Geologically speaking, this is the recent past. At that time, according to a 2017 Yale University report, global temperatures were 4-5°F warmer; the arctic was 20° warmer; and sea levels were at least 60 feet higher. Although the precise response of elevated GHGs on climate is complex and the details are debated, there is no debate about the basic science: elevated heat-trapping gases requires higher global temperatures in order to balance the solar energy input.

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Planning for Zero Carbon 2050

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 is leading the effort and has hosted a number of public input sessions. They also are accepting written comments through Virginia Regulatory Town Hall online forum. Below is an expanded version of comments made by Zero Carbon’s Scott Emery at the August 16 public input session at George Mason University.

Over the decades, Virginia built its electric power industry following the common path of building big, centralized production facilities and expanding the electric power grid to make affordable electricity accessible to all. Abundant, energy-dense fossil fuels power most of our generation, and  have significantly shaped how our electric power industry operates. In many ways, this has been good for Virginia, but it is time for a change.

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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.

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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.

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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”

Statement on Proposed Energy Legislation – HB 1558

Zero Carbon Virginia is a group of Virginian scientists, engineers, economists and public health experts who seek to guide our state toward practical, cost-effective, sustainable, healthy, and therefore ultimately carbon- free, energy production and distribution technologies. Driven by the urgency to address public health, climate change and the economic and quality-of-life opportunities that are enabled by advanced technologies, we seek long-term solutions, in collaboration with legislators and other groups, that will allow Virginia to lead in low cost, clean energy production.

We applaud the efforts of all who are working to move Virginia’s energy infrastructure and economy forward. HB 1558 represents an ambitious plan to shape Virginia’s energy future. Such a consequential plan must be deliberated, must be clear and transparent, and must serve the interests of all Virginians. Currently this bill does not meet these criteria.

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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.

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