The Energy Plan needs to keep pointing Virginia on the path to a clean energy future, as called for in the VA Clean Economy Act (VCEA). We are long past the times of depending on, and planning around, fossil fuel-sourced energy. It’s clear that those emissions have damaged our communities and our health and compromised our chances of a climate that is not destructive to all of us. The Energy Plan must address that reality and give the roadmap for the transition away from “more energy usage with more fossil fuels.”
Virginia has led the South with the VCEA and needs to meet its targets and build upon the ways to accomplish them, improving it and strengthening and accelerating those goals as necessary. Our Energy Plan should not take us “backwards” to a future more dangerous than the one we now face. The time to continue to use the tools and processes that the VCEA provides is now and the Energy Plan should reflect that. It must also acknowledge that the transition to clean energy, under Virginia’s utility model, could produce excessive electricity bills. The plan needs to offer proposed solutions for mitigating those costs; indeed, that’s one of the stated goals.
One of the VCEA’s tools, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), is already helping, is an important piece of the plan, and needs to stay in there. RGGI needs to be allowed to continue providing an important part of Virginia’s trajectory toward lower greenhouse gas emissions. The data on RGGI shows great results, with more to come, including cleaner air and better health for all Virginians. It’s already brought millions of dollars of investment to Virginia. The RGGI states have seen reductions in electricity prices in contrast to increases in non-RGGI states. It is benefiting our communities right now, providing critical funding for energy efficiency programs to help low income Virginians reduce their energy usage and their electricity bills. It’s providing the funding needed for critically important flood resilience projects. The Governor has indicated that helping communities with this huge challenge is a priority. The Virginia Energy Plan should focus on how we maintain Virginia's place in RGGI and use its revenue for the legislatively-intended purposes. Our Energy Plan should not take us backwards.
The Virginia Energy Plan must also provide a path to enable greater numbers of Virginians to “go solar”. Distributed solar is a great way for Virginians to chart their own course in terms of energy costs and source. Having gone solar in 2012 I know the benefits first hand. Though I could afford to do so, many Virginians cannot. And, our utilities continue to have policies that discourage net metering and consumer choice. The Virginia Energy Plan should offer concrete proposals to incentivize distributed solar. I concur with and endorse the comments by Solar United Neighbors and reiterate its Conclusion: “A solid majority of Virginians support more solar power in the Commonwealth. Distributed solar and storage have created thousands of jobs and delivered a billion dollars in economic development in Virginia. Continued growth of local solar and storage could deliver tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of impact along with increased resiliency, lower energy bills, lower energy system costs, and much more local, clean energy.”
I am also an EV owner and recharge my car’s batteries using my solar panels. The Energy Plan needs to address how the Transportation Sector in general, and EVs in particular, can help Virginians enjoy the lowered costs of vehicle operation while not polluting the air with gas fumes. I concur with and endorse the comments by Virginia Clean Cities in this regard.